By Morgan Bryce
Opelika Observer

More than 400 people attended the 75th annual Opelika Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday at the Bottling Plant Event Center.
The meeting’s keynote speaker was Michael Gaymon, who, until his retirement in 2014, served as the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce president.
In his speech, Gaymon commended Mayor Gary Fuller and government officials for their “untiring work” and commitment to making Opelika’s economy successful, as well as pointing to the current developments in Opelika as a sign of bigger and better things to come.
Gaymon spoke on the importance of strong leadership and the way it can shape a community. “As business leaders, you know that you wouldn’t be where you are today if it were not for strong leadership, visionary leadership and leadership that is bold enough to not only envision where you are today, but where you’re going to be tomorrow, and next year and five years from now,” Gaymon said. “Congratulations on 75 years of this organization being involved in helping to lead this city in the direction it’s going now.”
After the speech, the chamber began its award ceremony, recognizing Opelika citizens who have made a difference in their community.
The awards included:
– The Spirit of Opelika Award: Lucinda Cannon, responsible for the formation of the chamber’s 20 under 40 program, and Opelika High School’s Philanthropy 101 classes.
– Ambassador of the Year Award: Dianne Lowe, Hampton Inn & Suites.
– Small Business of the Year Award: Victory Designs.
– Quality of Life Award: Keep Opelika Beautiful.
– Diamond Award: Walmart Distribution Center, General Manager Brian Edge.
– Distinguished Service Award: Patsy Parker, Southern Union State Community College. Parker has served on numerous Opelika and Lee County boards, including the Opelika City School Board of Education and the Lee County Young Leaders. She currently advises students entering Southern Union State Community College on applying for financial aid and scholarships.
– Keeping Opelika Beautiful Shirley Flora Award: Faye Ford.
During the event, the chamber also introduced the 2016-17 20 under 40 class. The program was started by Gary Fuller and Lucinda Cannon in 2006 as a way to grow and encourage potential community leaders. This year’s class is made up of the following people: Kristopher Bailey, Wells Fargo Bank; Tyler Chaffee, city of Opelika; Tiffany Chandler, Huntingdon College; John Corbin Jr., Red Clay Brewing Co.; John Mark Davis, Pinnacle Imports; Carter DeShazo, First Team Construction Co.; Jeri Ann Faircloth, East Alabama Medical Center; Jeremy Gray, Elevate Your Grind, Inc.; Jake Harris, Colorvision Rent to Own & Pawn; Rebekah Martin, Opelika Observer; Megan Mayfield, Green Fairy Glow; Kerry McGinnis, Red Clay Brewing Co.; Chelsea O’Dell Hilyer & Associates, CPAs; Ali Rauch, Chicken Salad Chick; Todd Rauch, U.S. Army, Combat Cornhole; Cornelius Richardson, Lee County Youth Development Center; Kenan Roland, East Alabama Medical Center; Melissa Todd, Southern Union State Community College; Meredith Turner, Allen Orthodontics; and Jonathan Savage, Initial Outfitters.