MANSFIELD — Newton County’s most prestigious community service award was presented Thursday to a couple who has worked diligently to improve and protect the environment.
David and Connie Waller were not present at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center to accept the award from the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. They were out of the country pursuing a new passion — preserving the habitat for the monarch butterfly.
The award was presented by previous winner Lee Aldridge and Wendell Crowe. Aldridge described Connie Waller, who served 28 years as director of Keep Covington-Newton County Beautiful, as a great role model in the community who has exhibited tremendous leadership qualities. Aldridge said Mrs. Waller is also able to inspire others to volunteer.
“The winner seeks help when needed and seeks help from a wide range of individuals,” said Aldridge. “I am going to tell you something — if this person asks you to do something and you don’t do it, you are sadly mistaken, because you are going to do it. That’s all there is to it!”
During her career with KCNCB, Mrs. Waller implemented neighborhood recycling centers, developed a clean team of volunteers, established a Styrofoam tray recycling program in schools, developed a tree-planting program, conducted an annual roadside litter survey, initiated Bring One for the Chipper, and developed educational programs for local schools.
“This person has made a great difference in the lives of all people living in our county, and she’s made our county a much better place,” said Aldridge.
Crowe described David Waller as an avid outdoorsman who was able to integrate those interests into his career. Waller retired as director of the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Under his leadership, said Crowe, the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center was founded, he helped with the development of $238 million in state grants, contributed to development of a countywide plan for hiking and biking trails, was one of the early founders and supporters of Chimney Park, and oversaw the addition of more than 100,000 acres in Georgia to the wildlife management program.
Although the Wallers were unable to attend Thursday night due to a long-planned trip to the wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly, they were able to express their appreciation by video.
“We wanted to do this video to express our special thanks and to thank you for honoring us with the R.O. Arnold Award. We are truly thankful,” said David Waller.
“David and I have both been fortunate to have careers that we both have loved in the environmental arena,” added Connie. “But even though we are both now retired, we still try to do things in our community that we also love. We just hope that whatever we have done and whatever we do can just make a tiny bit of difference. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
In other presentations Thursday night, the Dick James Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Kwick Change Lube and Services. The award is presented annually to a business that has operated for at least two years, shows growth initiative, is community-oriented and promotes the community.
Presenter Jimmy Tanner said Kwick Change Lube and Services is family owned and operated, has doubled its number of employees since opening, has had seven consecutive years of increased sales year over year, has seen an 18 percent increase in its current fiscal year net profits, and offers discounts to members of the military and first responders. Owners Jared and Jennifer Rutberg are active in their local church, are volunteers with the Newton County Recreation Department and the Covington Family YMCA, are Partners in Education, and have served on numerous boards and committees.
The Deal of the Year Award was presented to the U.S. Highway 278 Community Improvement District, which consists of more than 120 businesses and stretches over 3 miles through Covington. Property owners in the CID have come together and agreed to impose an increased tax to fund improvements in the area.
The Chamber’s Spirit of Excellence Award, given to the volunteer of the year who exhibits outstanding qualities as a leader among volunteers, went to Ken Farrow of Jaco Contracting.
Chamber President Ralph Staffins described Farrow as “the driving force behind the involvement of his company. He always wants to be involved, and he always wants to help in any way he can.”