John D. Stephens named Chamber's Citizen of the Year

DULUTH - The Thomas P. Hughes Grand Ballroom at Gwinnett Center was filled with applause Friday night when John D. Stephens stepped on stage.

"Well I can say this: Dallas has its J.R., and Gwinnett has its (John) D.," said Chamber President and CEO Jim Maran, who presented Stephens with the chamber's Citizen of the Year Award.

Stephens, owner of John D. Stephens Inc., was described by Maran as considerate and supportive of those in the community and never much for taking credit.

"He would let those good deeds stand on their own merit," Maran said of the Gwinnett native.

This award and others were presented Friday night at the 59th annual chamber dinner presented by Gwinnett Medical Center.

Stephens, who started his business in 1962, is described as a quiet leader, and his thank yous were brief.

"I'm just glad to be a part of Gwinnett County," he said.

Among his accomplishments, Stephens was instrumental in the construction of Gwinnett's water and sewer infrastructure.

He also supports a number of charities, including the Children's Shelter, the American Heart Association, the Shepherd Center and the Northeast Georgia Council for the Boy Scouts of America.

The Gwinnett Children's Shelter was honored as the recipient of the D. Scott Hudgens Humanitarian Award, which was accepted by executive director Nancy Friauf and board president Lynn Price.

According to a chamber issued press release, the shelter came about 20 years ago when three PTA moms were concerned about Gwinnett's abused children. It has since provided shelter and counseling services to more than 5,000 children.

The Ambassador of the Year Award was given to Jill L. Andrusko of Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen on Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

Maran said Andrusko was voted in by a "landslide for bringing new guests to nearly all chamber events and playing a critical role in helping the Ambassador Team finish the Membership Campaign as the top overall team."

The Legacy Award was presented in honor of the late Clyde Roberts, whose son Spencer Roberts accepted the award.

Clyde, whose career was spent with Belk-Gallant department stores, served in a number of capacities in the Gwinnett community, including president of the chamber, president of the Kiwanis Club, chairman of the Gwinnett County Blood Services Program and director of the Humane Society, the release said.

Public Service Awards were given to six recipients - Kerry Armstrong, senior vice president, Duke Realty Corporation; Mike Hayes, general manager, Hayes Chrysler Dodge Jeep; Stephen K. Hill, president, RSE Grading Company Inc.; Jim Hinkle, Mayor, City of Grayson; Barbara Howard, president, Suzanna's Kitchen; and Sue Morris; Buford City Schools for their service to the community.

But the chamber will soon lose one of its own to the world of retirement.

Patsy Rooks, who is retiring from the chamber after 37 years, was given an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii from her chamber friends and family. She accepted the gift at the meeting.

Rooks is the vice president of special operations.