Man, Woman of Year honored


On Friday, Feb. 3rd, the Madison County Chamber of Commerce hosted a magical evening to celebrate the businesses of Madisonville. 

Liz Ward, the Chamber Coordinator, said ticket sales were at a record high with approximately 200 people in attendance. There were a number of honored guests in attendance as well: Michael Ethridge, Field Representative from State Representative Kevin Brady’s office, Jordan Strauss and Ariel Traub, District Representatives from Senator Charles Schwertner’s office and Linda Parker, District Director from Trent Ashby’s office. 

Local dignitaries such as County Judge Butch McDaniel, City Manager Camilla Viator and Mayor Bill Parten were in attendance as well. Spirits were high as Coach Johnny Carter took the stage as the keynote speaker delivering an inspirational message of hunger and passion. “Winning sometimes CAN cure all,” said Coach Carter. In closing, he left the audience with this quote by Christian author, Max Lucado, “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back to the choir.”

The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce Man and Woman of the Year Award. The Man of the Year was named to Chief Herbert Gilbert.  Chief Gilbert was described by his high school coach as being an “honorable man”. Chief Gilbert is active in many community events and also finds time to coach the new Madison County Broncos football team.

The 2017 Woman of the Year award went to Dawn Knight, owner and founder of Rufus Refuge, our local homeless and abandoned pet rescue center. Knight has been instrumental in saving the lives of many animals abandoned in our community. Camilla Viator, Madisonville City Manager, described Dawn as being “the definition of a volunteer.”  Her co-workers at the shelter go on to say of their founder, leader, and friend, “she works tirelessly to help save so many (animals) that are abandoned, homeless, injured and left to die.”

A special recognition award was added to the ballot this year to honor the Volunteer of the Year. This distinctive award was named to a long-time community member that so many know and love, Franke Smith. Although she appeared less than thrilled to be forced into the spotlight, she accepted the award with humility and grace. In the words of her friends and coworkers she just “tends to business”. Smith has worked for the city for 26 years and served the Madisonville Volunteer Fire Department for over 23 years. She is also a lifetime Board Member of the Chamber of Commerce. When she’s involved in the plan, things just come together.

From the opening prayer, to the hearty meal created by Chef Paul Aguilar, along with the wisdom shared by Coach Carter and the awards, everyone in attendance had an enjoyable evening.