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Chamber honors membership

Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone, a native of Pine Apple and graduate of Fort Dale Academy, served as guest speaker of the Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Banquet held on Thursday night at LBWCC. (Advocate staff, Austin Nelson)

Hundreds turned out to feast, fellowship and learn how to “grow a town from scratch” at the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2nd Annual Chamber Banquet Thursday night at the Mitchell Conference Center at LBWCC.

Keynote speaker Gordon Stone, a Fort Dale Academy graduate and mayor of Pike Road, shared his story of wanting to be able to make a difference in his community.

“I grew up in Pine Apple, and I moved to Pike Road because I thought it would be a good place to raise two little girls, similar to Pine Apple,” Stone said.

Coincidentally, the Stones’ signatures on a petition proved to be the last ones needed to seek out municipality status for the unincorporated community.

“We saw Pike Road go from 350 people in the 1990s . . . to 5,168 people currently,” Stone, who has served as Mayor since 2004, said.

“We hired the best planners, we got feedback and input from our neighborhoods, and we focused on four things: planning, educational opportunities, quality of life and good services.”

He commended Mayor Dexter McLendon and the City of Greenville for their forward thinking in looking ahead to new concepts for the courthouse area, the “Hilltop,” and the I-85 and I-65 areas, saying it was vitally important for a community to have a strategic plan “looking at where you are and where you want to go.”

After a considerable amount of legal wrangling, Stone said Pike Road’s dream of its own public school system was about to come true.

“I am a product of a private school and my children attend private schools, but the fact is, if we are going to succeed in this state, we have to have great public schools to prepare our children . . . what is exciting people about a K-12 school is accountability, leadership, entrepreneurial opportunities and excellent teachers in those classrooms.  It is exciting when you are the mayor of a town where the people want to have a voice, get involved and to work for it,” Stone said.

“I was taught in my home to be available and listen when God opens a door . . . I believe you can do anything you want right here in Greenville, Alabama, too.”

Honors were also passed out at the banquet, with Priester’s Pecans of Fort Deposit and The Pineapple of Greenville taking home the Distinguished Business Leader Award, with businessman and philanthropist Richard Branum lauded by the Greenville Jaycees as their 2010 Citizen of the Year.

Winners of the Camellia Girl and Chamber Page Scholarships were Ann Blake Langford of Fort Dale Academy and Willie Presley Jr. of Greenville High School.

Greenville businessman Richard Branum, left, was honored as the Jaycees Citizen of the Year. He is pictured here with presenter Daniel Ingram. (Advocate Staff, Austin Nelson)