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Mills wins Chamber's Lifetime Achievement Award
Randy and Carol Mills IMAG2147
Randy Mills, right, and his wife Carol

Randy Mills, Conyers' long-time mayor, was named the winner of the A.R. Barksdale Lifetime Achievement Award during the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting Tuesday.

Coach and City Councilman Cleveland Stroud presented the surprise award. He said, as he described Mills' many accomplishments, "His footprint is too big. You'll know immediately who this is."

"He's a quiet type of leader, and that's the most dangerous kind," quipped Stroud. "You couldn't have made a better choice. A great leader, a great choice, a great man I respect tremendously."

Mills, who was taken by surprise, said, "You're not going to believe this but I'm speechless... I thought I was coming to honor Vince."

"Our City Council, city staff, we have an incredible team," he said. "This is quite an honor and quite a surprise. Every one of yall could have had this award. This is truly gracious."

Mills recently won re-election to his fifth term for Mayor and is the owner of the Sigman-Mills Furniture company. Mills was born and raised in South Carolina, with a brief detour to New Jersey as his father, an FBI agent, moved for work. His wife, Carol, is a Conyers native, and they moved here in 1976. Mills served for eight years on the City council. In the 1990s, he was persuaded by longtime Mayor Charles Walker, who was retiring, to run to replace him. Mills was successful and has been in office since 1998.

The Barksdale Lifetime Achievement Award has been given annually since 1987.

The James P. Culpepper Volunteer of the Year award was won by Earl Wise, of Bank of North Georgia. Wise, a board member of the Chamber board, was co-chair of the second annual Hands Across Rockdale event, co-chaired the Leadercast Event, and is co-chairing a new program called "The Chairman's Club."

The previous year's Culpepper award winner, Diane Adoma, said "There are those who join and immediately, vigorously dive in and start rowing with all their strength and might... This individual came to Conyers-Rockdale in 2011 and in that short time has done more than some do in a lifetime."

The Community Spirit Award was presented to Macedonia Baptist Church and all the organizations, groups and companies who assisted the Glass family who suffered a devastating tragedy at the beginning of last year when a house fire killed four children. "The entire community joined in prayer vigil, memorials and generous donations to the surviving family members," said presenter Dr. Fred Hedrick.

"Thank you for your love and support," said mother Reba Glass, breaking into tears.

Macedonai Pastor Billie Boyd-Cox said, "Thank you all so, so very much. That's what community is all about." She highlighted the work of Rockdale County spokesperson Tonya Parker who helped coordinate the efforts as well.

The Kroger Corporation won the Education Partner of the Year, LaQuita Parks accepted the award on behalf of the company. The award recognizes a company that gives generously to an area of education "where the rubber meets the road."

Outgoing Chamber board chair Thua Barlay outlined some of the work undertaken this year. He emphasized the importance for any organization for renewal and staying relevant. The Chamber's PR committee worked to get the message out that joining boosted community image, increased sales, and gave the business a strong voice that speaks out on behalf of business and industry in Conyers-Rockdale.

"Your investment in the chamber is an investment in your economic well being," said Barlay.

He also described the Leadership Collaborative effort coordinated by the Chamber to bring together leaders from the school system, county, city, water system, Chamber, hospital and economic development in a short term series of workshops held by the Center for Community Planning and Preservation.

"We are are the very preliminary beginning stages, but we're getting ready to see what that future can hold," said Barlay, adding that the efforts are currently in progress.

The gavel for Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman was passed from Thua Barlay to T. Pat Cavanaugh, publisher of the News and the 2014 Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Barlay described how Cavanaugh has served as chair for other chamber boards before and calmed Barlay down many of a time with a word of experienced advice.

Cavanaugh recognized Barlay's service and enthusiasm. "He's going to be a leader in Conyers-Rockdale for years to come. This collaborative he spoke about is going to take a while."

Cavanaugh also thanked Mo Talley and Bill Daniels for taking him under their wing and providing guidance.

He described a new initiative for young professionals, similar to the Jaycees, to re-invigorate involvement of the under 30-year-old crowd.

Cavanaugh urged members to see what they could do for the Chamber because "the Chamber is you." It's sucess is the community's success, he said.