Chamber awards night

Nancy Putnam Hollister has had plenty of “firsts” in her life-first woman mayor of Marietta, first female elected lieutenant governor of Ohio, and first woman to serve in the state’s highest office-completing the unexpired term of former Gov. George Voinovich when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998.

On Monday Hollister was honored with another “first”-for her, at least-as recipient of the 2013 Gabe Zide Citizen of the Year Award.

She was presented the award by last year’s recipients, Charlie and Keelan McLeish, during the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce 98th annual Dinner at Dyson-Baudo Recreation Center on the Marietta College campus.

“For someone who’s made a lot of speeches, I don’t know what to say,” Hollister said on receiving the award.

“This is my home, my roots, my family, the love of my life,” she said. “Marietta has always been first place for me in all of the state of Ohio.

State Rep. Andy Thompson said he was glad for Hollister’s well-earned recognition.

“Nancy has always been a great leader for our city and state, and it’s good to see the town her ancestors helped found honor her in such a great way,” he said.

The Citizen of the Year award is given to a Washington County resident who gives of himself or herself to make the community a better place. Criteria for the award include contribution in one or more of the following areas: community service projects, working with youth, church activities, and civic improvement.

Hollister has met those requirements and more, working with numerous state and local organizations, including the Ohio Municipal League, Mid-Ohio Valley Mayor’s Association, Marietta Kiwanis, Colony/Hippodrome Theatre, Southeastern Ohio Port Authority and Washington County Farm Bureau.

She’s also a member of the Betsey Mills Corporate Board, Ohio Historical Society Board of Trustees, Campus Martius/Ohio River Museum Board, and Marietta College Board of Trustees.

Her nomination letter read, “These activities, both volunteer and political, have benefitted Marietta and Southeastern Ohio. Nancy has always considered our community in her many roles. Furthermore, she has accomplished all while cultivating a strong marriage to her husband, Jeff, and raising five children in a loving and stable family environment.”

Jerry James and Gene Huck, president and vice president, respectively, of Artex Oil, one of Ohio’s largest oil and gas producers, were honored with the 2013 Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year award.

James, from Zanesville, has served as president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA), and has been honored as recipient of the 2012 Workhorse Award by the Southeastern Ohio Oil and Gas Association, as well as OOGA’s Oilfield Patriot Award, recognizing efforts to protect, promote and advance the common interests of Ohio’s crude oil and natural gas producing industry.

Huck has gas and oil field experience throughout the U.S., and has supervised drilling operations in Louisiana and Arkansas, as well as worked with the industry in New Mexico, Illinois, Mississippi, and Texas. He manages field operations for Artex Oil which employs 16 people in the Marietta headquarters, and helped create approximately 500 jobs in its area of operations.

Huck was the 2009 recipient of the Workhorse Award, and currently serves on the board of the Southeastern Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

“A lot of people who helped us along the way are in this room tonight,” James said after accepting the award.

“That’s the beauty of a small town-people help each other and helped us to get a small business going,” he added. “In a small community you build a lifetime of relationships, and I really appreciate your taking a guy from Zanesville and helping him succeed here.”

Huck echoed James’ comments.

“But I also want to thank my wife of 36 years as well as our employees,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson said James and Huck are leading the way in the local oil and gas industry.

“They are great, and on the forefront of the industry’s development,” he said. “They understand the issues, and their company is growing because they both believe in the economic boom the oil and gas industry is bringing into this area.”

Ralph Coffman was presented the Washington County Council of Cooperatives Agriculture of the Year Award.

A longtime agriculture educator, communicator and advocate, Coffman’s career spans nearly four decades.

Raised on a local 330-acre dairy farm, Coffman served as president of the Warren Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter and received his state FFA degree in 1967. He went on to graduate from The Ohio State University in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education.

In 1992 he was recognized as the National Vocational Agricultural Teacher’s Association Teacher of the Year, and in 2005 was tapped to speak at the multi-state North Central Region of the Ohio Association of Teachers’ conference, addressing college students aspiring to teach agricultural education.

For 15 years Coffman served as chairman of the District Agricultural Teachers Association, representing more than 25 schools.

He retired from teaching after 35 years, but continues to serve the agricultural community as president-elect of The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Science Alumni Board. He is also president of the Washington County Farm Bureau.

“I’m honored and very surprised,” Coffman said of the award, but then, true to his calling, talked a bit about farming.

“I’ve always tried to promote farmers,” he said. “Too often the only recognition they get is in the media when something negative happens. But if everyone in this country worked as hard and planned as diligently as our farmers, we would have a very different America today.”

Wife, mother, grandmother and businesswoman Becky Parlin Johnston of Marietta received the 40th Elizabeth “Betty” L. Hadler Zonta Woman of the Year award Monday.

The award, given by the Zonta Club of Marietta every year since 1974, recognizes a woman from the Marietta area for dedication to the community as a volunteer. The club is affiliated with Zonta International, a professional organization that supports the legal, educational, political, social and economic status of women around the world.

Johnston’s service to the community began with Easter Seals in the late 1980s, and she later volunteered with the “Incredible Playground” building project through fundraising, planning and designing of the playground. Her leadership there was also honored by the Chamber of Commerce.

A retail merchant from 1998 to 2010 in downtown Marietta, she was an active volunteer with Friends of Front Street and the Marietta Area Merchants Association.

When arsonists burned and destroyed several Front Street buildings a few years ago, Johnston’s artistic talents provided a decorative “storefront scene” along the temporary plywood walkway constructed for pedestrian safety. The scene blocked the unsightly charred remains during cleanup of the damaged buildings.

In addition she volunteered and helped clean up the downtown area following the September 2004 flood.

Johnston is also an active volunteer for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, taking the lead in fundraisers and helping to maintain the local shelter facilities. She has participated in animal rescues throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley as a Leadership Team member.

“Her son knows her best,” said Gail Reynolds who presented the award. “As he stated: ‘I have never met another person who has put so many people first-even at the sacrifice of her own personal life. Her love and passion for the city and people of Marietta is unrivaled.'”

Johnston’s surprise was evident as she received the award.

“I love this town and love the people,” she said, noting when she was younger people often thought she would be the one to move on to other areas or even foreign lands.

“But it turned out I’m the one that stayed,” Johnston said. “This is my town and people love what we have here.”

Also during Monday’s dinner, Donn Schafer, president and CEO of Settlers Bank, was introduced as the new chairman of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors, filling the post of outgoing chair Colleen Cook from TheisenBrock. Schafer is the 71st board chairman in the chamber’s 126 years of operation.