An old Chinese proverb affirms, “One generation plants the trees so the next may enjoy the shade.”
Leadership has a major influence on shaping a community''s future. The success or failure of a community always hinges on the presence or absence of positive and bold leadership. Take a moment to reflect on what leadership means to our area as we look at planning for future development, protecting resources, or simply getting routine things accomplished.
Too often, communities lack the leadership needed to get projects off the ground, much less see them through to fruition. However, there are places that do embrace support systems, creating an environment for people to speak up and take risks. Fortunately, some are right here in Sevier County.
The seeds of the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce were planted about 70 years ago. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, local entrepreneurs formed what was known then as the Tourist Bureau. In 1940, the still infant association became chartered by the US Chamber of Commerce. Ultimately, the Tourist Bureau was renamed and the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce was officially chartered as a non-profit organization in the early summer of 1957.
On Monday November 26, the Gatlinburg Chamber held their Annual Meeting & Banquet at the W.L. Mills Auditorium. Outgoing president, Kevin Tierney and Vickie Simms, executive director of the Chamber hosted the event. Titled “Spread Your Wings,” the gathering of approximately 350 of Gatlinburg’s finest, was a celebration of past deeds and future dreams.
The retirement of Dr. Ira Lapides, co-founder and director of the Retail Merchants Association was announced. His benevolence and insight were recognized by some and applauded by all. During the past 25 years, few have influenced so many to do so much.
Then, the lifetime achievements of Ralph “Bud” Lawson and Larry Steve “Bud” Ogle were presented with video highlights of their countless contributions to the Gatlinburg community. Lawson received the William C. Stevens Volunteer Spirit Award and Ogle humbly accepted the Zeno Wall Jr. Tourism Award, stating “This award belongs to everyone in the room.”
Affectionately dubbed “Gatlinburg’s Prom,” the annual event is also used to thank the outgoing board members for their sacrifices and introduce the newly elected representatives prior to the commencement of their terms. As president elect, next year’s board will be led by Dan Booth of the Hayloft Leather Store. Joining Booth and six already seated directors, incoming board members are Vickie King from Heritage Mountain Rentals, Deborah Linnert of SmartBank, Logan Coykendall representing Hampton Inns & Suites and Claudette Geoffion from Rafting in the Smokies. Congratulations, and good luck to all.
At this time in our history, it is imperative that every Sevier County community support continued economic expansion with job creation by way of new trade and environmental opportunities. Only through enhanced business development will the arts, capital campaigns and tourism continue to flourish, providing what the ancients so prophetically considered “shade” for the next generation.
Henry Piarrot is a lodging manager in Sevier County, TN. Please send all story recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org