The Jerry Woolverton Volunteer of the Year Award is normally for one person who has given unselfishly of his or her time and talents to promote the mission and work for the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. 

This year, the award went to several people who helped Tyler through the pandemic.

Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chair June Cheatham explained some of the volunteers are actually paid, but something "they never dreamed to be in their job description was the navigation of the unchartered waters of COVID-19 for the city of Tyler and Smith County. These folks were in my prayers each and every day, and personally, I couldn’t be more thankful for all they have done."

The winners were members of the Executive Team of the Smith County Joint Emergency Operations Center, who met seven days a week from March 16 to April 30 to collaborate on the latest issues related to COVID-19 and to respond with decisions to keep the residents of Smith County safe and informed. They met 64 times in person and 174 times virtually.

Members of the executive team include Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, city of Tyler Mayor Martin Heines, Fire Chief David Coble, Police Chief Jimmy Toler, NET Health Executive Director George Roberts, City Manager Ed Broussard, city of Tyler Communications Director Julie Goodgame, city of Tyler Public Information Officer Jenny Wells, Smith County Fire Marshall Jay Brooks, Smith County Public Information Officer Casey Murphy, Public Health Authority Dr. Paul McGaha, NET Health Contract Tracer Russell Hopkins, and the former Public Health Authority Dr. Jeffrey Levin.

"In addition, we also want to recognize all frontline workers who have put their lives at risk during these unprecedented times," said Cheatham. "These include doctors, nurses, policemen, firefighters, EMTs, medical assistants and medical office personnel. We have a wonderful representation of these folks today, here in person and virtually, from both Christus Trinity Mother Frances and UT Health East Texas hospital systems."

For her work before the pandemic, Cheryl Sartain was also honored as a Jerry Woolverton Volunteer of the Year, as she chaired the B2BBusiness Expo.

Cheatham explained, "This is the Chamber’s signature event and fortunately it did happen this year. Cheryl did an amazing job for what was an over-the-top” event this year!"

Mayor-elect Don Warren also spoke at the ceremony, and said he will work closely with the chamber and the economic development council. He thanked outgoing chamber and economic development board president and CEO Tom Mullins. A video was shown that outlined the years of success stories under Mullins' leadership.

Henry Bell remains the president of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, and Roy Martinez will take over as the 20-21 chamber chairman.

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John is a two-time national columnist of the year. He has earned top AP awards for news, videos and sports writing and won the Thomas J. Bulson Investigative Journalism award. He has appeared on CNBC's American Greed, FOX News and CNN.

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