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Highlands Chamber holds Awards Banquet

HIGHLANDS/LYNCHBURG CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, being sworn into office by Judge Lucia Bates, right. Above, L to R, Gary Guy, Ana Clark,Weston Cotten, Betty Brewer, Randy Casey, Sarah Davis, Patrick Courtney, Kathy Jaeger, Sherry Lee, LaNelle McKay, Kathryn Saenger, John Vann. (Not pictured, Gretchen Knowles, Teah Rice, and Jaime Ruiz). (MORE PHOTOS PAGE 2)

Ryan Hotchkiss named Terry Davis Award recipient

HIGHLANDS – A large crowd of Highlands/Lynchburg Chamber members and guests assembled last Thursday evening, Feb. 17, at Monument Inn in LaPorte for the Annual Installation Banquet and Community Awards presentations.

Chamber executive director Jessica Woods introduced guests and later the awards to outstanding citizens of the community.

In her opening remarks, she mentioned that Highlands is a “small but uniquely positioned community, and the struggle for our identity is real!” She continued, “East Harris County is experiencing growth at an unprecedented rate, and we are reaping the benefits of that growth… our primary concern is creating and maintaining an environment for positive social and economic growth through proactive leadership.”

Woods then introduced her Board of Directors, responsible for implementing her remarks, and Judge Lucia Bates proceeded to swear in the board and the new president, Randy Casey. Judge Bates was the featured speaker for the evening. As Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3, Place 2 she administers to Highlands and Baytown areas. In her talk, she recounted her career moves from advertising executive to judicial responsibilities. In addition she has been an active volunteer for a number of community organizations, and served as board chair for the North Channel Chamber.

Judge Bates also described the workings of her court, which she characterized as “the People’s Court.” Some innovations and duties of her court include mental health counseling, teen court, veterans’ appreciation, eviction workshop, delinquency cases, and an upcoming Teen Summit. Her message to the audience was the value of community service, and the quality of listening to others for ideas that can improve public service.

Jessica Woods presented the community awards, as follows:

Firefighter of the Year, Ben Coward. 9 years of service to the Highlands VFD, and presently board chair of the department.

Constable Deputy Award, to Jose Gomez.

Actively patrols in the community with drug and felon arrests.

Sheriff’s Deputy Award, to Jonathan Parks.

Serves on the CRU Crime Reduction Unit, and is responsible for the apprehension of several persons in a local homicide case.

Organization of the Year, San Jacinto Community Center. Under the direction of Tonya Kostka, the center not only serves seniors on a daily basis, but also hosts community events and meetings. In spite of the pandemic limiting some activities, the center also led with food drives, National Night Out, movies and concerts, and more. The staff includes Tonya Kostka, Patty Thierry, John Bell, and Donnie Victor.

Ryan Hotchkiss receives the Terry Davis Award from Chamber Director Jessica Woods.

Terry Davis Award, to Ryan Hotchkiss. This was the major award of the evening, and continues a tradition of recognizing outstanding community service by these individuals. The award has been given for 37 years. It recognizes community service, selflessness, and making Highlands a better place to live. It was named for a former resident who gave his life in a volunteer service accident.

The recipient Ryan Hotchkiss is a HVFD firefighter and EMT technician. He has been with the department for 14 years, and served as Fire Marshal, Station Chief, and is currently Assistant Chief. He is also a supporter of the Baytown and Houston Livestock shows.

Closing remarks were made by the incoming president, Randy Casey. He spoke about being a native of Highlands, and currently a businessman in Baytown. He saw challenges for the Chamber in the area of economic development, reduction of crime, and traffic safety, help for the homeless population, and development of a new Management District.