Foul weather may have prevented the keynote speaker from attending the Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet last week, but it didn’t prevent the people of Union Parish from gathering to recognize some of their most admired neighbors.
Despite a torrential downpour that grounded airplanes and washed out roads, hundreds turned out to the Willie Davis, Jr. Recreational Ccenter to recognize the Chamber’s Union Parish Citizen’s of the Year.
“I didn’t expect much of a turnout after that rain,” Chamber President Job McKinnie said. “It says a lot about our people that they showed up to pay tribute to the awards winners.”
The CEO of Foster Farms, Donnie Smith, was scheduled to speak at the event, but rain and dangerously high winds prevented him from flying in from California. Fortunately, two of Louisiana’s statewide officials were in attendance and agreed to pinch hit for Smith.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Secreatary of Agriculture Mike Strain, undaunted by the rain, drove up from Baton Rouge and took the stage in Smith’s place.
Strain discussed the importance of agriculture to both the state and to Union Parish, and Nungessor spoke about the significance of the state’s $10 billion tourism industry, of which, he said, Lake D’Arbonne is no small part.
The focus of the evening, however, was the announcement of the names of those selected as the 2023 Citizens of the Year. The awards are presented to Union Parish residents who have distinguished themselves in a variety of fields.
This year’s award winners were:
Leo Davis, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year – Sgt. Leo Davis started his career with the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office in January 2014, where he was assigned to the patrol division. In June of 2016, Sgt. Davis completed the school resource officer program and went to Union High School for over 6 years as their SRO.
In August 2022 Sgt Davis was transferred to D ‘Arbonne Woods Charter School and has been there since, currently serving as the school’s SRO. He is the youngest of five children and attended Southern University.
Tim Clement, Firefighter of the Year – Tim has been a Firefighter for 65 years. Tim joined the Independent Fire Company No. 1 in Laurel Lake, NJ at the age of 16. After graduating highschool Tim joined the United States Marine Corps and served for 5 years as an Aircraft Firefighting and Rescue specialist. After being Honorably Discharged from the USMC Tim moved his family back to NJ and Tim joined the Laurel Lake Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company.
Tim and his wife moved to Union Parish in 2009, where Tim immediately joined the Spearsville Volunteer Fire District. In January of 2010, Tim was appointed as the district’s Fire Chief.
Benoit Ford, Business of the Year – Danny Benoit, owner, purchased Preus Motors in 2021 and his success there allowed the company to purchase Legacy GMC earlier this year. Benoit has established himself as a leader in the community and is known for his company’s contributions to a number of charitable causes throughout the parish.
Deanna Wilson, Educator of the Year – Deanna Edwards Wilson began her teaching career at Farmerville Elementary School on August 27, 1990, and has spent her entire 33 year career at that school. Deanna has taught kindergarten for most of her career, and most recently, she has served as the school’s literacy coach. She wears many hats in her role as an educator- master teacher, mentor to co-workers and students, educational data collector, and literacy expert.
Jaime Taylor, Community Service Award – Jamie was born & raised in Keithville, LA and moved to Union Parish in 2006 shortly after graduating from LSU in Shreveport. After her move, she was hired as a staff accountant at Taylor & Wilkes, where she continues to work. Jamie is known as a reliable volunteer, fundraiser and organizer for many community and charitable organizations and events.
Lynette Wade, Healthcare Provider of the Year – Lynette was born in Downsville and attended Louisiana Tech University’s nursing program. She began her career at Union General Hospital in 1979 as RN charge nurse, Director of Quality Assurance and Director of the Operating Room. Lynette earned her Advanced Practice Registered Nurse degree in 2000. During a period when she suffered her own health crisis, rather than leave her patients in the care of someone else, Lynette continued working while administering her own IV treatments in between seeing patients. Lynette Walks the Walk and Talks the Talk as a caregiver and, as a result, is one of the most sought after caregivers in the parish.
Tim and Angela Murphy, Agriculture Award – When Tim and Angela married in 1985 they shared a dream of owning their own poultry farm. They searched for and found a farm in Union Parish in 1999. The family-owned and worked farm has seen great success and has weathered economic crises that thousands of other farms around the country did not survive. Today, Murphy Farm is an 80-acre farm with both cattle and poultry.
Macy Henderson Hughes, Up and Coming Award – Macy is a 2012 graduate of Union Christian Academy and a 2016 graduate of La. Tech’s School of Nursing. She works PRN at Northern La. Medical Center in Ruston but most days she can be found working on her farm in Spearsville. She and Micah operate three breeder houses under contract through Foster Farms. Macy saw her dream of becoming a farmer come true in January of 2021 Macy also enjoys raising cattle and working with her horses. She has attended the Beef Cattle Pregnancy Determination Class taught by LSU Ag Center. And is currently attending the La. Master Cattleman’s Program.
Bernice Pharmacy, Gold Award – The Gold Award is given each year to a business that has existed in Union Parish for many years. This year the Gold Award went to Bernice Pharmacy, which can chart its beginning back to the early 1920s. John Harlow took over the pharmacy in 1962, and his daughter Debbie Dendy took over after his death. When Debbie passed away, her husband and daughter Sarah continued to operate the business to this day.