Chamber honors community service, pride
by Courtney Stevens
Oct 01, 2013 | 1668 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
"Mississippi is pointed to really tell our story. Other people have told our story and they always got it wrong. Now it's our time to tell our story," said Malcolm White, director of Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division.

White delivered the keynote address at the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce Annual Membership Banquet on Monday evening at the Cleveland County Club.

In his role, White is responsible for the overall management of the division and the development and implementation of short and long-range plans that will create economic growth and opportunities for Mississippi through tourism.

"Your story is the fiber of who you are," said White.

White explained how proud Cleveland residents should be for the many assets Cleveland has.

"We have an embarrassment of riches … no other state has the assets we have," said White.

White said he firmly believes that as long as Mississippi embraces its story, it will flourish because it is all about "telling our story and selling it to others."

While Mississippi has one of the smallest budgets to promote tourism, Cleveland was still named the second best small town to visit by Smithsonian Magazine.

White also asked attendants of the banquet how proud they were of the upcoming Grammy museum, to which he received an applause that even drowned out the evening's rainstorm.

"That's a big deal. Your success is our shining star," said White.

The evening also highlighted the successes and events throughout the year.

Aaron Lasker, the outgoing chamber president, was proud to discuss the different successes of Cleveland and Bolivar County.

"We may be number two best place to visit, but we are the number one best place to live," said Lasker.

Lasker also presented Russell Gainspoletti with the president's award for being an outstanding chamber member, as well as the chamber award to Ray Bell and Craig Clemons for their work in bettering the community.

The Kossman Award went to Hilda Povall for her outstanding service to the community.

Povall had no idea she was to receive the award and said, "The award was a complete surprise. My family set up the perfect ruse to keep it a secret. I fell hook, line and sinker for their trick."

Povall was met with a standing ovation as she accepted her award from Lasker.

"I was and am quite honored to have my name added to the S.E. Kossman Award Trophy. Knowing the contributions that those individuals have made to our community, I consider myself even more honored that the committee would consider me in the same category.

“In addition, I immediately thanked my husband, Kirkham, for his constant support, advice and counsel in all my endeavors. 

“We have always been a team and I am grateful and very blessed to have such a friend as my husband," said Povall.

Povall sees this as an inspiring moment for her and plans to continue to work with the chamber and for the Cleveland community.

"It is inspirational to feel appreciated, but my greatest inspiration has always come from my children and now grandchildren, and other children and young people in the community.

"Cleveland was and continues to be a great place to raise a family, and I hope that it will stay that way.

"I am always inspired to see young families moving into our community and like to do whatever I can to make them feel welcome and a part of the community.

"Kirkham and I remember with great appreciation the people who welcomed us into the community when we arrived. We have tried to carry on that tradition.

"At the end of the day, our goal has always been to make Cleveland a better place to live, a place with opportunities for young people to grow and thrive," said Povall.

"When I am asked what makes our town so special I always reply that it is our people and their willingness to volunteer their time and efforts to make Cleveland-Bolivar County the best that it can be," said Lasker.

"None of this is possible without the hard work and dedication of the Chamber staff – Judson Thigpen, Anne Dilworth, Brian Blansett, Cheryl Line, Emily Morris, and Kelli Cotton. Thank you all for all that you do to make Cleveland/Bolivar County a better place to live and work, and thank for helping me make my year as president successful," said Lasker.

At the end of the evening, Lasker passed the presidential position to Michael Aguzzi, who looks forward to taking on the role.

"I'm excited for the coming year with our newly elected board of directors and our executive board.

"There are a lot of things in the works and we are working really hard behind the scenes to make these things happen.

"We are ready to move forward on some of these events and really excited to work with the community to continue to make Cleveland the best it can be," said Aguzzi.