Stonewall Chamber honors community pillars
It was a family affair at the Stonewall Chamber of Commerce annual Membership Banquet on Monday at the Stonewall chamber building.
Chris Nevins, who is the Gillespie County Court at Law Judge, introduced his father, Norm Nevins, for the organization’s Golden Service award, which recognizes longtime service to the community.
Norm Nevins, who spent a career as an attorney, was clearly surprised as he thought he had been invited only to introduce his son as the next award winner.
“One thing I learned this evening is that the Stonewall Chamber is devious,” Norm Nevins said, laughing. “I was invited here to award the Outstanding Chamber Citizen. I must be a little slow.”
Norm Nevins was born in Michigan to farmers. He lost his father at the age of 4, but went on to help support his family, graduate from Michigan State University and join the U.S. Air Force. There, he met his wife, Sandra, during a “background check” from Sandra, a Fredericksburg native. They married in 1962.
Nevins attended University of Texas Law School and became a managing partner in one of the largest firms in Central Texas. He donated much time to charitable organizations and became chair of the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo. He has served on many boards for Stonewall and Fredericksburg organizations.
“Your examples of how you live, how you work, your teaching, your selfless involvement and discernment in a Christlike manner is why you are being honored tonight,” the younger Nevins said introducing his father.
Norm Nevins then said of his son that he has a servant’s heart, serving pro bono cases for people who can’t afford legal representation.
Nevins said when his son joined his church, Holy Ghost Lutheran, he began teaching a class for high school students, then rose to lead the church council. His son also served on the Stonewall Chamber board and even became a member of the Stonewall Volunteer Fire Department.
“He actually went to College Station for fire training,” Nevins said of his son, also a UT Law School graduate. “Now that is volunteerism par excellent for a Longhorn.”
“His nickname growing up was ‘Slug’ and it’s difficult for me to call on ‘Judge Slug’ to come up here and receive the Outstanding Citizen award,” Nevins said.
The two surprised award winners asked DeAnn Hampton to open Weinheimer and Son so they could “buy lottery tickets.”
Board member Kent Wahl outlined the chamber’s activities, including organizing a blood drive, performing highway beautification projects, volunteerism at Stonewall Elementary School, and hosting candidate forums. This year, the chamber also sponsored a New Year’s Eve dance for the first time.
Wahl said the chamber also awarded $11,500 in scholarships, bringing the five-year total to more than $50,000.
Wahl recognized the Stonewall Peach JAMboree queen and court members, who participated in more than 25 parades and events.
Stonewall’s Peach JAMboree Rodeo also was recognized by participants as one of the top 11 paying rodeos in Texas, and was voted the top outdoor rodeo in the state.
Wahl also said the chamber will sponsor improvements to its grounds in the coming year.
“Community is important. We need to be there for each other and we need to rejoice together and we need to weep together when necessary,” he said, paraphrasing his pastor. “In a community, a burden shared is divided and a joy shared is multiplied.”
Board member Cord Weinheimer introduced Dennis Smith, park superintendent at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.
Smith is a 23-year veteran of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and has served at five different state parks.
Smith, who is completing his first year as superintendent, oversees the 15-staff-member, 717-acre state park.
Smith said his career began at 16 years of age where he got into trouble for driving his parents’ vehicle to work before he had a driver’s license. He later served as a park police officer and joked about coming full circle.
Smith said more than 800 people attended the 50th annual tree lighting at the park, a tradition started by the park’s namesake.
The leader touted the park’s walking trails, river access, swimming pool, visitor center, Sauer-Beckmann Farm, and other attractions, such as bison and Longhorn herds.
“We are applying for a ‘Dark Sky Park’ designation to host astronomy events,” Smith said. “We’re grateful for those helping us work on applying for that designation.”
Smith touted the passage of Proposition 5 in the last November election, a constitutional amendment that dedicates sporting goods state taxes fully to Texas parks. That stability will help leaders plan budgets, he said.
Smith said the additional revenue allowed non-managerial staff to get a small wage increase. He said staffing and turnover at state parks was difficult because of low, frozen wages.
He said improvements also included reservation systems and replacement of its old heating and air conditioning system.
Smith said some of his goals are to improve the park’s baseball field, bring the facilities into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, as well as establish a “friends of the park” group to help with items, as modeled by Friends of Enchanted Rock and other area state parks.
Gold Orchards, run by the Gold family, was chosen as Business of the Year.
Gold Orchards has operated since 1940 and has fourth-generation family members working on the annual crop.
Accepting were Lawrence Gold, and his daughter and son-in-law, Luanna and Ricky Priess.
Chamber President Melissa Eckert introduced other board members as:
Arin Smith, vice president; Mindy Eckert, secretary; Deleyce Burg, treasurer; plus at-large members, Kade Burrow, Katelyn Duecker, Cole Eckert, Jason Englert, Charles Olfers, Donnie Reeh, Scott Schumpelt, Jacob Smith, Kent Wahl and Cord Weinheimer.
Kim Baethge serves as office administrator and James Petsch is grounds maintenance supervisor.