Tifton Gazette

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January 30, 2014

Walker named Hall of Famer; former sheriff leads Chamber awards

TIFTON — Former Tift County Sheriff Edd Walker was posthumously inducted into the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce’s Wall of Fame Thursday night during the Chamber’s annual banquet held at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center.

Walker’s induction was the highlight of the evening, which also honored several community leaders for their leadership efforts. The Stafford Award was presented to Abraham Baldwin President David Bridges, Karen Kramer was named the Prince Businesswoman of the Year, Kelley Manufacturing owner Lanier Carson was named the John Hunt Entrepreneur of the Year, Curtis Akins received the J. Lamar Branch Award and Chris Cutts was named the Ambassador of the Year.

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brian Marlowe addressed the crowd and thanked the community leaders present for making Tift County a vibrant and prosperous community. He also introduced Lance Ruttenberg, the CEO of American Textile Company who also thanked the community for its support of his company which moved to Tift County three years ago. Earlier in the day, Ruttenberg along with other company officials announced an expansion of their operation here which will result in 200 jobs.

Chamber Chairperson Wanda Moore of Colquitt EMC also thanked the organization’s volunteers for helping make her stint and successful. She also welcomed the 2014 Chairman Mike Davis, President of First Community Bank.

Walker had a long and distinguished career in law enforcement, all in Tift County. He began under Sheriff Tom Greer and was elected Sheriff in 1973. He served in that role for 24 years, amassing many local and state awards along the way. He was particularly dedicated to the Georgia Sheriffs Association, which awarded him the Distinguished Humanitarian Award and the Outstanding Service Award. The state association also honored Sheriff Walker on numerous occasions for his contributions and dedication to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch, where he also served as chairman.

He was a member of many local civic clubs and was a trustee of the Tift Avenue Church of God. Known for his friendly demeanor and white Stetson hat, Walker was remembered for his dedication to his job and his compassion for his fellow Tift County citizens. Members of his family received the award on his behalf.

Bridges became the 10th president of ABAC in 2006 and has implemented many changes at the college including the creation of bachelor degree programs, the complete renovation of the college’s three signature buildings and the acquisition of Georgia’s State Museum of Agriculture. He is also an ABAC alumnus and a graduate of Auburn University where he also received his Master’s Degree and he received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M.

For 20 years, he taught at the University of Georgia and was named the Assistant Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences before coming to ABAC. Bridges is also active in civic affairs, serving as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ruth’s Cottage and the PattiCake House and he is currently on the Board of Directors of the Southwest Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Kramer is an insurance agent with Partners Benefit Group and has been active in a variety of civic and charitable organizations for most of her 20 years in Tifton. As the Community Manager for the American Cancer Society, she helped build Tift County’s Relay for Life into one of the most successful events in the country on several occasions. She has also volunteered with the Tiftarea Foundation for Women’s Health, the American Heart Association, Hospice of Tift Area and Ruth’s Cottage. She is a graduate of Leadership Tifton and was named the Chamber’s Ambassador of the Year in 2009.

Carson grew up on a farm in Appling County before graduating with honors from Georgia Tech with a double major in Industrial Engineering and Industrial Management. He joined Kelley Manufacturing in 1972 as a Production Engineer and quickly rose through the ranks. He became President and CEO in 1979 and two years later, he became the Principal Owner. In 1990, he established a trust for KMC employees and it is now 100 percent employee owned. Today, KMC is known throughout the world as one of the leaders in agricultural equipment engineering and manufacturing with over 200 employees.

Carson’s generosity has also benefited many local organizations and it has been estimated that he has donated more than $1 million to various groups over the years.

Akins is a Tift County High graduate who served for over 20 years in the U.S. Navy. After retiring from the military, he returned to Tift County and has been an active volunteer in many organizations, including on the local and district level with the American Legion. He also serves as the Georgia Director for the African American PTSD Association. Last year, Akins received the Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador of the Year award.

Cutts is an Assistant Vice President at BB&T Bank. He is a graduate of Tift County High School and Auburn University with a degree in Finance. Cutts has been very active with the Ambassadors throughout the year, attending numerous ribbon cuttings, volunteering with the annual Chamber of Commerce golf tournament and a variety of other Chamber functions.

Editor’s Note: Photos from the banquent were not available at press time, but will appear in Sunday’s edition.


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