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Carmi Chamber of Commerce Recognizes Best Monday Night at 79th Annual Dinner

Typically one of Carmi’s starchiest nights, the Carmi Chamber of Commerce’s 79th Annual Dinner provided a distinct neighborly feel Monday evening.  All three of the award recipients were characterized by their hospitable, kind, and community first dispositions.  WROY/WRUL’s own Cole Carter has been recognized as this year’s Chamber Young Professional of the Year.

“Carmi has a long history of excellent sports professionals from Steve Cox to Toby Brown and the community is lucky to have a talent as prodigious as Cole. It’s easy to take for granted what sports announcers and journalists do given that much of what they’re known for is while the games are being played. When you accompany the gift he’s been given at calling games with the amount of time he puts into preparation and the effort to truly hone the craft, the level of Mr. Carter’s influence is both understandable, yet also that much more impressive.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Cole since he was about 10 years old and his mom brought in a Bruno Mars CD for me to “karaoke” so he could perform a track at the Corn Day STARS contest. From the first time I met him, I was confident that he would be successful in whatever path he chose. I knew because he was willing to put in the work, not to mention put himself “out there” to be judged, truly cared about his community and wanted to be a part of what it is to make this community great. From there I continued to watch Cole grow and was beyond thrilled when I found out he was choosing broadcasting as a profession. Luckily, I didn’t have to recruit hard to get him to come home. Thanks to his parents Kenny and Lisa, the Carmi Unit 5 school system, and his own volition, Cole was already sold on the love for this community.

He’s been instrumental in growing WRUL Sports into a regional powerhouse of a brand and advertising vehicle for the local business community. There are other media outlets scattered across the region who also offer live video streams of some local sporting events, but none are doing so at the level of WRUL sports. It takes a team of competent and capable individuals who also possess a calmness and troubleshooting prowess to pull the product together. Cole’s training, demeanor, and natural gifts help us stand out and above the crowd.

While Mr. Carter is supremely talented enough to be a premier broadcaster in a larger market, he has chosen to put down roots here at home. He’s purchased a house, coaches Jr High Baseball, and just married the love of his life Whitney. Cole is an exemplary example of what a successful young professional looks like. The radio station is lucky; the community of Carmi, the businesses in the region, and maybe most of all young people are fortunate to have someone like Cole to look up to.”

Outgoing president Lacey Harms presents the Business of the Year Award to Dave Matheny and team

Dave Matheny’s State Farm agency is the Business of the Year.

“For Dave Matheny, being a good neighbor is second nature.  His office contributes virtually to every cause that asks, but more importantly to every cause that doesn’t ask.  He and his team host the Carmi Kiwanis Car Show every Corn Day.  They also sponsor and contribute to the Bulldog Booster Club, the Carmi Compassion Center, the Baptist Children’s Home, and the Guardian Center to name a few.  State Farm prides themselves on ‘Like a Good Neighbor’ (we all know the jingle), well we pride ourselves on calling Dave our neighbor.”

And the 2023 Citizen of the Year, Mr. Doug Hays.

Incoming Chamber VP Katelyn Wolff presents the Citizen of the Year Award to Doug Hays

“This year’s Citizen of the Year is the type of guy everyone would want for a neighbor.  He’s always in a good mood and his happiness in contagious.  It’s hard to have a conversation with him and leave it not in a good mood.  He has a soft spot for kids and volunteers countless hours at various community events.  He’s been the Key Club sponsor for several years and you can tell how proud he is of his Key Clubbers and all they accomplish.  He also serves on numerous Corn Day committees where he helps to make the yearly festival one of the best in southern Illinois.”

On the distinction, Hays added…

“Well thank you all.  I appreciate this very much.  A couple weeks ago, somebody came up to me at Kiwanis and told me that the Key Club was blessed to have me.  And the truth is I’m blessed to have them.  I’m honored.  Thank you very much.”

Mayor Pollard gives the State of the City address (Incoming President Abby Weiss looks on while Chamber Executive Director Kelly Northcott hydrates)

Also Monday night, Mayor Jeff Pollard presented the State of the City address.  He called 2023 so far a very busy year and touched on the major storm that blew through and knocked out power to the entire town, thanking city workers for their tireless efforts on that front and on several other projects underway.  Among those projects, the parking area on College that’s added 38 new parking spots, the Hillsdale area project, the ongoing work at Burrells Woods, and the new stage at the downtown park.

“The new road at Burrells Woods should be complete in the next week or so and ready for use.  This’ll allow travelling through the original park over to the 66 acres and out to the county road in front of the dog park.  The road will also allow the archery club an area for them to develop for practice and eventually competitions.  Construction on the stage in the downtown theater park has begun with the foundation, stamped floor, and a ramp completed in time for Corn Day.  The goal is for the stage to be all under roof and will also feature a small hospitality room and it should be done in time for Corn Day next year.”

Additionally, the mayor says the old tennis courts at Eckerle Park have been designated for repurpose as Pickleball courts.  On the business front, Pollard says recruiting new business can be problematic and had a message for land and property owners.

“One thing that continually comes up as we work to recruit and bring new business to Carmi is the cost of leasing facilities in our community.  That can be prohibitive if high for new businesses trying to open their doors.  I would encourage those who own buildings in Carmi to keep this in mind if you’re approached by a new or struggling business.”

The mayor was also hoping to be able to unveil some exciting news ahead of next year’s Monday, April 8th eclipse.  He says a concert is being planned for April 6th, the preceding Saturday, but expects it could be a couple more weeks before details are released.

Incoming President Abby Weiss presents outgoing Past President Amber Knight with an award for her service

In recapping her year as President of the Chamber, Lacey Harms shared the organization had gained 21 new members, provided $10,000 in grants and scholarships, and was growing in many ways.  New Chamber president Abby Weiss says if growth was the word for this past year, her word would be momentum.  Chamber directors also singled out Executive Director Kelly Northcott for her efforts.  The Chamber said goodbye to 5 outgoing Chamber directors including past president Amber Knight and welcomed 5 new leaders including fresh officer Beth Conner.


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