The Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce lauded three local people Thursday with the organization’s annual awards, including the Woman of the Year, who received two independent nominations.
Officials could not say whether Lynn Wilson’s double nomination was a first, but it’s certainly unusual. Wilson has made headlines over the last three years as a leader of efforts to improve mental health services in Colquitt County.
Joining her in last night’s spotlight were Man of the Year Dan Jeter and Agri-Businessperson of the Year Joey Wayne Tucker.
The awards were presented during the chamber’s 104th annual banquet, held at C.A. Gray Junior High School.
Woman of the Year
Wilson, a retired teacher who now consults on curriculum, was nominated by both the Moultrie Federated Guild and by an individual, Michele Croft. Between them the two nominations included eight letters of support, including the nominators as well as Lori Glenn, director of Colquitt County Family Connection; Ben Marion, CEO of Turning Point; Chief Frank Lang of the Moultrie Police Department; and Probate Judge Wes Lewis. Angela Castellow wrote two letters of support, one as executive director of the United Way of Colquitt County and another as president of the Kiwanis Club of Moultrie.
Both nominations also included multiple excerpts from The Moultrie Observer chronicling the efforts to improve mental health services here.
“Lynn Wilson started calling attention to a need for mental health care in Moultrie and continued until she had a group working with her to get mental health care for our community,” wrote Lesa Moser on behalf of the Moultrie Federated Guild. “She did not get discouraged, and her enthusiasm and drive never wavered. She was, I think, singlehandedly responsible for a much needed health care service being returned to her hometown.”
Moser said Wilson’s efforts began with a letter to the editor of The Moultrie Observer dated Jan. 18, 2011, in which she wrote, “No longer can we allow the stigma that has plagued those living with mental illness. Mental illness is a physical phenomenon. We can no longer hide our heads in the sand about the spectrum of mental illnesses that devastate promising human lives. We must become aware. We must develop understanding. We must become advocates. We must become passionate. We must become part of the solution.”
In his supporting letter, Ben Marion described Wilson’s transformation from mother to advocate as she sought help for her adlult child and met failure at every turn.
“Due to late on-set of a serious psychiatric illness to one of her children, Lynn Wilson was thrown head first into the murky world of mental illness,” he wrote. “So Lynn did what any good educational consultant would do. She identified the problem, organized the stakeholders, facilitated the meeting of the stakeholders, delegated to stakeholders … and never ever allowed someone to say no.”
Stakeholders were meeting before the end of 2011 and by fall of 2012, the community was celebrating the re-opening of the Georgia Pines mental health facility, which had been closed in 2009.
Also between mid-2012 and late 2013, the community gained an accountability court, which focuses on drug offenders and defendants with mental illnesses; a Moultrie chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness was chartered; and the Moultrie Police Department received an award from NAMI for the number of its officers trained to respond to mental health crises.
All of those efforts were goals of the Mental Health Committee of the Healthy Colquitt Coalition. The chairman of that committee? Lynn Wilson.
Man of the Year
The Man of the Year is also affiliated with the Healthy Colquitt Coalition, as one of the founding members. Jeter was well-known in the community for his contributions long before the HCC began in 2009, but it was his colleague at that organization — Greg Coop, director of the Moultrie YMCA — who nominated him for this award, writing on behalf of the Y.
Jeter has served the YMCA in a variety of ways for more than 25 years, Coop wrote, including board president in 1997-98 and chairman of the Building Better Lives Campaign in 2012 when the Y was raising money to remodel and renovate the main floor of the facility. He now serves as a mentor of a student through the Y’s mentoring program.
“Dan agreed to be the first community chair of the Healthy Colquitt Coalition when the YMCA received funding in 2009 from a Pioneering Healthier Communities grant,” Coop wrote. “Dan led a group of community leaders in creating priorities for community wellness and working on big picture health issues impacting Colquitt County.”
His involvement with the HCC brought him into contact with Dean Phil Williams of the University of Georgia College of Public Health, and through that connection Jeter now serves on the college’s board of advisors, speaking up for rural Georgians.
He is also current president of the Colquitt County Arts Center Foundation Board, former chairman of Communities in Schools, the Moultrie-Colquitt County Economic Development Corporation and the chamber of commerce. He has served as president, vice president and district lieutenant governor for the Kiwanis Club. He has served in numerous leadership roles in his church, First Presbyterian, as well as the Flint River Presbytery; with the United Way of Moultrie and Colquitt County; with Ducks Unlimited; and with Ameris Bancorp, where he has been chairman of the board of directors since 2007.
Among his other achievements, Jeter completed the 1980 New York marathon and carried the Olympic torch through part of Colquitt County in 1996.
His nomination for Man of the Year included 15 letters of support.
Agri-Businessperson of the Year
Joey Wayne Tucker
Tucker was nominated for the award last year by then-director of the Colquitt Food Bank, Andy Jordan. This year, the food bank resubmitted the nomination along with additional recommendations from Jordan’s successor, Andrew Christensen.
“Mr. Tucker has been very generous and supportive of the food bank throughout the year and especially when a need arises,” Christensen wrote. “This year he helped in acquiring fresh sweet potatoes, oranges and apples to feed 650 families the week before Christmas.”
The previous year, Tucker donated GM points, other discounts and personal goodwill to enable the food bank to buy a pickup truck with which it now picks up donations from stores and individuals.
Colquitt County Extension Agent Glenn Beard said Tucker has been involved with farming just about all his life and operates one of the largest vegetable farms and packing facilities in Colquitt County.
“He is known for being innovative and strives to learn about and try new production practices including production on plastic mulch,” Beard wrote. “Because of his desire to try new things, he was approached this past year by a major food chain about producing leaf lettuce on plastic mulch and he continues to grow into this new type of market.”
Beard said Tucker has guided his company through the process to become Good Agricultural Practices certified “so the buying public will know that he is doing everything possible to provide a safe product.”
A member of Trinity Baptist Church, Tucker was supported in the nomination by his pastor, the Rev. Matt Marston, and the church’s minister of music, John Grobe.
“Joey is an excellent and successful farmer; he does not need me to attest to his work in his fields,” Marson wrote. “What I can attest to is his work in the fields of our community. This is what makes Joey Tucker special: He uses his gifts as a farmer to bless, support and nourish the human beings who have been planted in Colquitt County.”
Tucker operates the sound system at the church and mentors high school students who work on the sound, and he heads up the audio and media ministry that reaches elderly and homebound members through radio and CD recordings.