Jan Wiley Smith, who is a retired Lawrence County educator still working part-time as a remediation math and virtual teacher at East Lawrence Middle School, was named Lawrence County’s 2020 Citizen of the Year at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce annual year end banquet on Tuesday.
Smith was one of two other finalists considered for the award, including first runner up MarMac realtor Morgan Jones Terry, and second runner up Nancy Pinion, who serves as the volunteer director of the Jesse Owens Museum and Park.
Chamber President and CEO Craig Johnston said the finalists were chosen by a panel of 18 judges who anonymously voted for the top three contenders among nine total nominees. Tammy Vinson, Lyndon McWhorter, Keith Ligon, Mitchell Hallmark, Delia Taylor, and Johnny James Young Jr. were also considered for this year’s award, he said.
“It is truly an honor to be nominated for the Citizen of the Year award. Just to be nominated is a statement in itself of each of these contenders’ characters,” Johnston said in Tuesday night’s virtual banquet. “Our judges read over each nomination letter carefully, and the person selected is truly someone who makes an impact throughout the entire county.”
Smith was nominated by former 2018 Citizen of the Year winner, Beverly Bentley, and fellow educators Carolyn Claborn and Michelle Owens.
“Jan Smith is a vibrant and energetic ‘Good Samaritan’-type community leader and volunteer who is always willing to go the extra mile to help others,” Bentley wrote in her nomination letter. “When I think of Jan Smith, my first thoughts are of her service to others.”
Smith is also serves as an active member of several local boards, including the Lawrence Commissioners’ Personnel Board, the Lawrence County Equalization Board, is a member of the Alabama Education Association and the National Education Association, and is an active volunteer at her church, Moulton Church of Christ, and in her community, according to her supporters.
“She has a servant’s heart and wants no recognition in return,” Owens writes of Smith. “Jan is really considered a 24/7 volunteer. She doesn’t wait to be asked; if she senses the need Jan is there.”
Owens recounts Smith’s efforts in volunteer church activities including a weekly Bible study conducted for female inmates at the Lawrence County Jail, and Smith’s work in delivering prepared meals for individuals quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
“I cannot think of a single individual who has served as a positive role model to so many students during her educational career and who has impacted hundred of young minds,” writes Claborn, who also commented on Smith’s contributions to the county as an educator and as a volunteer. “Jan encourages, inspires, and motivates while seeing the potential in everyone. She reminds me of what Ronald Reagan once said, ‘we cannot help everyone, but everyone can help someone.’”
Smith said she was both honored and shocked to have won the Citizen of the Year award.
“I’m really speechless because I stood with these other two accomplished women who have done so many great things for their communities as well,” Smith said Tuesday night. “I feel humbled to even be included in this list. I am totally shocked. Thank you.”
As 2020 Citizen of the Year, Smith will be asked to serve as grand marshal for the 2021 Moulton Christmas Parade in December.
During the virtual banquet on Tuesday, the Lawrence Chamber also honored newly elected officers to the Lawrence Chamber’s Board of Directors. Kristi Robertson will step in to replace former President and Chairperson of the Board Patsy Lang. Deano Orr has been named the new vice president and vice chair of the Board of Directors, Benita Owens is the new treasurer, and Darlene Davis is elected the new secretary.
The Lawrence Chamber also welcomed new board members, Jerry Felks with Country Financial in Moulton, Courtland Mayor Linda Peebles, and Servpro Marketing Manager Julie Lowery. Each new member began serving on the board as of Tuesday, Jan. 19.
The Chamber also recognized three outgoing board members who have successfully fulfilled their commitment to the Chamber, Johnston said. According to the organization’s bylaws, Joe Hill, Carolyn Morris and Ricky Knouff will be eligible to be re-elected after a one-year absence.
“This year, the effects of the COVID-19 health restrictions have seen us change direction. Those effects have led to reinvention for many businesses in the way the conduct business, in the products and services they offer. While the pandemic has had a very negative impact, we have also seen some great things take place in Lawrence County; we’ve seen some businesses and individuals really shine,” Johnston said. “We are excited about 2021 and are looking forward to what this year may bring for the Chamber, our Board of Directors, our staff and, most importantly, our members and community.”