Ardmore’s best: Area leadership honored at 2020 Chamber Banquet

Drew Butler

The Ardmore business community came together Thursday evening for the 2020 Chamber Annual banquet. The event highlighted the achievements made during 2019 as well as giving special recognition to specific individuals who best embody the spirit of community leadership. The awards went to Sarah Johnson, Dwayne “Rocky” Atencio and T.J. Riley.

The first award of the night went to Sarah Johnson who received the FUEL Ardmore Rising Star Award. Formerly known as the Ardmore Young Professionals Rising Star Award, this recognition goes to FUEL members who best represent the next generation of community leaders. Last year’s recipient, Bregan Heitz, outlined some of Johnson’s achievements during her introduction.

“Prior to becoming Fuel Ardmore’s first president, Sarah Johnson was a major part of the organization,” Heitz said. “She has served as treasurer, secretary and most recently the program manger. She has been described as a fabulous leader, a true advocate, and one of Ardmore’s best and brightest.”

After receiving her award, Johnson thanked those who helped with the transition from Ardmore Young Professionals into FUEL Ardmore.

“I just want to take a minute to thank Bregan and my board for rising up to the occasion, seeing what needed to be done and taking that leap of faith,” Johnson said. “I’d also like to thank everybody in this room who started Ardmore Young Professionals. They saw a need in the community and rose up to meet it. I’d also like to thank the Chamber and all the businesses in this town who sponsor us and keep us going. Thanks for taking the ride with us.”

The BancFirst Small Business Award went to Dwayne “Rocky” Atencio, owner of Carter County Dodge and Carter County Hyundai, who left the event early to attend to the birth of his grandson. Sally Cumpton, senior vice president of operations at BankFirst, spoke about Atencio and his work.

“This year’s award winner operates not one, but two successful businesses employing over 100 individuals in an extremely competitive environment,” Cumpton said. “The culture of his organization is to actively encourage community participation by all their employees. Monthly activities include volunteering at the Food and Resource Center of South Central Oklahoma, an annual pet adoption event covering the associated fees, blood drives and more.”

Jenny Cypert-Gibson presented the final award of the night, the OG&E Bob and Mollyann Cypert Award. She described the award’s criteria before announcing the winner, T.J. Riley

“The nominees are considered based on the following criteria: an individual who has a positive attitude, works behind the scenes to enhance our community, and works for the good of our community and not for personal gain,” Cypert said. “They participate in civic and community work and have a vision and commitment for the betterment of this community.”

Riley, a partner and business risk adviser at the Bramlett Agency, helped found the Ardmore Young Professionals in 2006. He has also served on the board of numerous community organizations and has worked with several area athletic programs.

Josh Newby, athletic director and head football coach at Ardmore High School, was one of several individuals who nominated Riley for the award. Cypert-Gibson read a portion of the nomination to the audience.

“This individual has been a tremendous asset for our athletic program. He has taken it upon himself to raise money for our athletes to make sure our athletes had some chocolate milk after workouts in the summer pride program. He has organized speakers for our football group every Thursday in the summer to speak on character traits that champions possess,” Cypert-Gibson read.

Riley spoke briefly after receiving the award.

“It’s a great honor to have my name added to that list of people who have invested so much in this community,” Riley said. “I plan to live up to that standard, and I can’t wait to see some of our young professionals who give their time added to that list some day.”