In the midst of his corporation's "aggressive 'Eat More Chicken' campaign," Dan T. Cathy couldn't resist a comment about his meal in Thomson Monday evening.
Mr. Cathy, the president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A was the keynote speaker at the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce banquet.
"I'm not sure who is responsible for planning the menu tonight, but it's been quite a while since I've had beef," Mr. Cathy quipped as he approached the podium.
Approximately 250 people representing local businesses attended the annual banquet at Belle Meade Country Club and enjoyed the roast beef on the menu along with potatoes, green beans and squash casserole and learned the 2006 award recipients.
Prior to Mr. Cathy's address, last year's Chamber Board President Brad Adams recognized outgoing board members Pat Baston, Mike Carrington, Stephanie Ivery and himself. Also recognized were Leadership McDuffie Co-chairs Karen Abron and Kelly Evans and members Lauri Tuten and Kelli Phillips. Mr. Adams then passed the gavel on to his successor, Tommy Phelps, who is also the Senior Vice President of First Citizens Bank. The new board members Mr. Phelps introduced were Richard Morgan of Regional Open MRI, Kathy Hawkins of the Wilson Company, Bobby Hildreth of Georgia Power Company and Andy Knox, Jr., of Coldwell Banker, Watson and Knox Real Estate.
The Small Business Person of the Year Award went to Cindy Cox, the owner of Anthony Auto Sales.
Chamber Board member Angela Blair introduced the award and said Anthony's began 17 years ago, and commended them for their commitment to the community and their employees, "treating each one like family." Mrs. Blair said Ms. Cox "continues to give when called on" in spite of the hardship she faced this past year with the loss of her husband.
"I am definitely caught off guard," Ms. Cox said as she held up the award. "But the one that deserves this is not with us any more. This is for you, Gary. Thank you very much."
The Darrell Johnson Service Award went to Foster Wylie. The award was developed in memory of Mr. Johnson, who was a great community leader in Thomson.
"This is the Who's Who of Thomson," Mr. Wylie said as he accepted the award. "So I guess this time they decided to go with the who's not. I don't know what to say except thank you from the bottom of my heart."
When introducing the award, Mr. Phelps said he had previously asked Mr. Johnson's daughter, Laura, to describe her father's character. She said her father was "always concerned and interested about what happened in the church...very hard working and very civic minded...a very humble man who preferred being behind the scenes."
"Miss Laura's comments about her father also describe this year's Darrell Johnson Award recipient...When I think of (Mr. Wylie), I keep going back to what a huge heart he has, and a passion to help others... A servant spirit is at the core of who he is," Mr. Phelps said.
In his speech, Mr. Cathy also acknowledged the importance of a servant spirit from a businessman's perspective. During the banquet, Mr. Cathy modeled that spirit by helping ladies and children carry their plates from the buffet and assisting them with their chairs at tables.
"Engaging in selfless acts of kindness gives us the greatest sense of accomplishment we will ever have," he said.
Mr. Cathy described his childhood of growing up in the Chik-fil-A family and how his father started the business.
"My Dad taught me that if you fall in love with your work, then you never have to work again," he said.
For his philosophy on running a business, Mr. Cathy said he keeps a copy of the Bible with him at all times, and "would rather hear what Jesus had to say about business principles than listen to Jack Welch... or read the Harvard Business Review."
Through personal anecdotes, Mr. Cathy encouraged the audience to teach their employees, and practice themselves, personal integrity, honor and respect.
Following Mr. Cathy's speech, Mr. Phelps presented Mr. Cathy with a print of a camellia by local artist Jack Cheatham, so that "you can remember us in the Camellia City of the South."
"It was so impressive to have such a gathering of people that spans such a broad spectrum of businesses here," Mr. Cathy said in an interview after the banquet. "There is a tremendous positive atmosphere among the businesses here... They want a Chik-fil-A here. I sure got that message loud and clear... It was an honor to be here."