Salado Chamber of Commerce recognized the Mill Creek Country Club as its Business of the Year during the annual Awards Banquet on Jan. 28.
The Chamber also recognized the Citizen of the Year, Ambassador of the Year and inducted a new member into the Hall of Fame.
Business of the Year
“This business has made significant contributions to our community since their formation,” Rita Zbranek said in making the presentation for Business of the Year. “We as a village owe them a big thank for all they have done.”
“As all of us are aware, the recent floods have impacted many areas of our village,” she said. “The clean up following the floods and the removal of trees down by the floods have been a large part of their contribution.”
“They have helped in rebuilding bridges and lakes,” she added.
“As a result of their many changes, home values have increased,” she said. “They have helped to maintain Salado as a desirable location to move to, and it also has increased the desirability by homebuilders to build in Salado.”
Their renovations have drawn more people to visit Salado. This, Zbranek said, “results in more business for the entire Village.”
“Their renovations to the Golf Pro Shop and establishing a seven day a week food service has certainly been great for the area,” she said.
“They have 18 holes up and in beautiful condition with four more on the way,” she said.
The community firework display is one that “everyone in the Village enjoyed,” she added.
“They as a group took a problem situation and made it whole again and certainly have brought back to life an integral part of our community,” she said.
Billy and Vickie Helm were joined in accepting the award by other local ownership of Mill Creek, including Len Mewhinney, John Preston, Robert Ray and Dr. Armando Lenis.
Citizen of the Year
George Dentry presented Skip Blancett with the 2015 Citizen of the Year award.
“It was approximately 18 years ago that he moved to Salado and became the minister of the First United Methodist Church,” Dentry said of Blancett. “At the time, it was a tiny church located just off the interstate. The Bishop recognizing his ability to problem solve and save troubled churches, asked him to go on the road for a year raising money assisting with multiple building projects.”
He then took a position as an education counselor for soldiers at Fort Hood, followed by five years as the Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Killeen. He then retired for the second time.
Not long after retiring, he returned to work as an Education Service Officer at Fort Carson, Colorado, but yearned to return home to Salado, becoming an Education Service Specialist and Projects Manager at Fort Hood.
“Even though he has been dedicated to his career and gives everything to his job,” Dentry said of Blancett, “his volunteerism has been remarkable.”
He ran for Mayor two years ago and won. “Not an easy job,” Dentry said, “as once again he was walking into a stressful situation due to the I-35 construction. Not only has he brought much needed structure and professionalism to the Board of Aldermen meetings, he has brought together a town and created committee to help build a long lasting and successful Salado.”
“He has spent tireless hours in meetings working through issues with TXDOT, James Construction, The Sanctuary, Hidden Glen and many other projects,” Dentry said.
“He has consistently and repeatedly visited all Salado businesses discussing any needs they might have from the Village,” he said. “No matter how inconvenient, he has attended numerous events, meetings, dedications, fundraisers and award ceremonies.”
“The groundwork that he has laid will be instrumental in reestablishing Salado as one of the premier locations in Texas for tourism and family life,” Dentry added.
Hall of Fame
“Before Salado was incorporated, people turned to the Salado Chamber of Commerce, Salado Historical Society, Mill Creek Community Association and a core of volunteers for just about everything,” Kaye Coachman said in announcing the newest inductee into the Chamber Hall of Fame, Hulda Horton.
If you needed lights on Main Street, or Pace Park or saving the old red school house, you turned to the Chamber. If you wanted to protect history you turned to the Historical Society. If you wanted to protect property values, you turned to Mill Creek Community Association.
“Our Hall of Famer has been involved to deep degrees in all of these, and many more local organizations, to boot,” Coachman said. “ She has chaired, co-chaired and volunteered for the Salado Art Fair for so many years we lose count. Artists still ask for her by first name and she continues to be the host at the hospitality room during the Art Fair.”
Hulda, Coachman said, “was there to help kickstart and organize the Public Arts League of Salado. Today, she continues to put her money where her heart is by buying and donating local art. The new sculpture at the corner of Pace Park and Main Street is due to her love for Salado.
She served for more than a decade as the face of the Salado Civic Center, where she worked part time and helped at the Chamber.
In 2004 she was awarded “Citizen of the Year.”
She is active in her church, in her community through the Rotary Club, Lions Club, Historical Society, PALS, Chamber, Ambassadors, MCCA.
“It would be a much shorter list to tell you what she does not belong to,” Coachman said, “Even those groups love our Hulda. She was honored by the Salado Masonic Lodge with the Community Builder award for her work in Salado.”
Ambassador of the Year
“There always appears to be one person that stands out even in a sea of greatness,” Mary Poché said in announcing the Ambassador of the Year. “This person has consistently given time working specifically at the Visitor Center and is always ready with a smile and helping hand no matter the task.”
She “has great people skills and knowledge of our community which is a necessary qualification to man the front desk,” Poché said, adding that she “is proactive while in the Ambassador role and does things often with little or no direction and just seems to know what needs to be done.
She is a long time member of the Community and has served as a Director on the Board of the Mill Creek Community Association specifically as Secretary/Treasurer.
“Since I am still somewhat new here, I am sure I am leaving something out,” Poché added, “but in the short time I have known this person, I can see what a shining star she is. Now I would like for you to congratulate the Salado Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau Ambassador of the Year Ann Moore.”
Chairman Award of Excellence
2015 Chairman Tim Fleischer presented Dave Hermann with the Chairman’s Award of Excellence. “He was my go-to guy throughout the year,” Fleischer said. “I knew I could ask him to do something and not have to worry about it being done.”
Hermann chaired the 2015 Golf tournament, doubling the profit margin of the event. “I have never seen anyone so organized in tackling tasks,” Fleischer said.
Fleischer said that Hermann “is committed to Salado. He lives here and owns a business here. He wants to see Salado succeed.”
“He even donated one of the top auction items tonight,” Fleischer added.
The Chamber live auction, with five items, brought in almost $10,000.
Bill Hall gaveled the auction and squeezed as much money from the audience as possible, riding a bidding war between Billy and Vickie Helm with Lone Star Grading and Donnie Ringler with Ringler Automotive Group. Lone Star Grading was the winning bidder at $5,000 for a Private Cooking Class with treats and bites for up to 10 Guests donated by The Range at the Barton House Restaurant.
Before handing over the gavel to 2016 Chairman Melanie Kirchmeier, Chairman Fleischer, thanked two members who are going off of the board of directors: Hermann and Claire Hartman.
Kirchmeier recognized the current board of directors: Vice Chairman Dave Swarthout, Treasurer Troy Smith and continuing directors Jennifer McFarland, Fleischer, Larry Wolfe, Dave Broecker, Johnny Shipman, Ron Cunningham and Kaye Coachman. She also introduced incoming directors Gail Allard II, Allie Guenther, Jim Ruesch and alternate Ronnie Tynes.
Kirchmeier also introduced the staff of the Chamber and Tourism Bureau and Visitors Center: Executive Director Mary Poché, Erin Klingemann, Marketing & Events Manager and Paulette Chandler, Business Operations Administrator.