There were no horses but there were plenty of prize-worthy hats at the Dayton Chamber of Commerce’s Kentucky derby-themed annual gala on Saturday night, Feb. 12. The Chamber welcomed its new board, thanked outgoing board members and celebrated some local businesses and individuals for their outstanding year of service to the chamber and community.
Tammie Alexander with the City of Dayton and Nellie Lunsford with Bridgehaven CAC were thanked for completing their three-year terms on the Chamber’s board of directors. Taking their places are Jennifer Garcia with Lee College and Stacey Herrington with MobilOil Credit Union. The remaining board members are Incoming Board Chairman Rev. Howie Howeth, Outgoing Board Chairman Jordan Thibodeaux, Dr. Constance Onemany, Lucas Gaskamp, Meadow Noyer, Sherrie Schmidt, Sherisa Hoy, Bill Monk, Gabrielle Keene, Jeff Johnston and Jimmie Cuellars. The day-to-day operation of the Chamber is under the direction of Jessica Sims.
The Service Business of the Year is Bear Plumbing, owned by Jimmie Bear Cuellars and wife, Samantha. Bear Plumbing is relatively new on the Dayton business scene as it opened in September 2019; however, Jimmie Cuellars has more than 23 years of experience in commercial plumbing.
“He knew at the age of 18 that he wanted to own his own plumbing company,” said Lucas Gaskamp, announcing the honors.
The company is a proud sponsor of local organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce and youth sports.
“They enjoy giving back to the community. When Jimmie is not helping you with your plumbing needs, you can find him coaching his son’s football games and cheering on the sidelines of his kids’ volleyball games, softball games, baseball games, you name it, or running a concession stand,” Gaskamp said.
The Retail Business of the Year is Brookshire Brothers of Dayton. The grocery retailer is part of the Lufkin-based Brookshire Brothers organization that was started 100 years ago.
Dayton Fire Department’s new police chief, Chad Glatfelter, was named the Volunteer of the Year for the Chamber. He has led the volunteer firefighting organization since 2021 but joined Dayton VFD in 2011 at the age of 18. He works in the petrochemical industry and has served on industrial fire brigades.
Cliff Ritchey, the owner of Thrif-Tee Food Center in Dayton, was named to the Dayton Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Fame. Ritchey has devoted much of his life to the Dayton community, volunteering countless hours for local organizations over the years. At the age of 12, he began working to help his mother support their family after the death of his father. For the last 31 years, he has operated Thrif-Tee Food Center, located on FM 1960 at Cleveland St. in Dayton.
Amanda Wessels was named the Chamber’s Ambassador of the Year. She also won the same award in 2019 for her support of Dayton Chamber events.