01/24/14 — Keith Gunnet wins Cornerstone Award; Beverly Carroll becomes first Ollie Toomey Service Award honoree

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Keith Gunnet wins Cornerstone Award; Beverly Carroll becomes first Ollie Toomey Service Award honoree

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on January 24, 2014 1:46 PM


Keith Gunnet pauses before speaking Wednesday night after he was presented the Cornerstone Award in recognition of his years of dedicated community service. The award was presented by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce at its annual banquet held at the Walnut Creek Country Club.

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Beverly Carroll, right, Thursday night, receives the Ollie Toomey Service Award from outgoing Chamber board Chairman Tom Bradshaw, left, and Chamber President Kate Daniels.

As more and more details were revealed about the 2014 Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Cornerstone Award winner, one man kept looking down, shaking his head softly and holding back a smile.

Everything was clicking for him.

A 1971 graduate of East Carolina.

A business banker.

A 40-year volunteer in the county.

Chairman of the Wayne County Development Alliance.

It all made sense now to Keith Gunnet, 2014 Cornerstone Award recipient -- why he had been asked to push back his duck hunting trip to come to the 2014 Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.

"I had an inkling when you said East Carolina, but I wasn't sure until you called my name," Gunnet told the crowd who had gathered at the chamber's annual banquet.

Gunnet said earning the award was an honor and that while his wife might say he accepts too many calls to serve different organizations, it is all a labor of love.

"If you're gonna live here and work here then you had better give back," he said.

Even though he was the man of honor he was quick to share credit for the accomplishments during his time in Wayne County plugging the Wayne County Development Alliance's work to make the county a seamless unified force for development.

"I don't like to get a lot of credit," Gunnet said. "I just like to help. I'm not sure I'm deserving of this, but I certainly do appreciate it."

After the festivities wound down, a long line of friends and fellow chamber members lined up to congratulate Gunnet on his honor.

"I'm just humbled," he said. "You just do the best you can every day to help the community."

Before naming Gunnet as the winner, John Best, who was presenting the award, took a few moments to highlight some of the honoree's accomplishments.

During his time in Wayne County, Gunnet has served on the board of trustees for Wayne Community College as well as leading the Wayne Community College Foundation.

He has served as a board member and president to the Wayne County Development Alliance as well as chairman of the chamber.

Gunnet has served as president of the boards of the Boys and Girls Club and United Way.

He is a member of the Rotary Club of Goldsboro.

Gunnet also serves as staff chairman, finance chairman and as a member of the executive committee of St. Paul United Methodist Church.

The Cornerstone Award has been given each year since 1996 to a member of the Wayne County community who is a fundamental building block to the community.

The hallmarks of a Cornerstone recipient are long-term continuous service and dedication to the citizens of Wayne County and significant impact on the overall betterment of the area.

Each year nominations are taken for the Cornerstone Award leading up to the annual banquet.

Last year's winner, Dr. David Tayloe, was in attendance Thursday night with his wife.

Also awarded at the banquet was the first Ollie Toomey Service Award.

The award was created this past year to recognize a volunteer with the chamber who goes above and beyond any expectations.

The award is named in honor of long-time past chamber executive director, Ollie Toomey.

Toomey served as the chamber director for 21 years from 1963 to 1984.

This past year's chairman, Tom Bradshaw, presented the inaugural award to Beverly Carroll for her work with the chamber, which included a stint as interim director.

"I'm just amazed," she said. "I'm just sitting back here with my shoes off and I couldn't believe he just called my name. I look around and see so many people very deserving of this honor."

Mrs. Carroll has lived in Wayne County for 32 years and serves on a number of chamber committees including the Military Affairs Committee and Teacher Recruitment and Retention Committee.

She also led this past year's Total Resource Campaign to raise funds for chamber operations for the year.

Following the Ollie Toomey award presentation, Bradshaw gave a short speech wrapping up the last year.

"The chamber had a rough start in 2013," Bradshaw said. "We had to find a new chamber executive director, and find one we did."

In the past year the chamber added 99 new members and totals more than 530 businesses, he said.

The last year saw the hiring of Charity Johnson as membership director for the chamber and 113 events for business members and others.

Bradshaw also highlighted the Military Affairs Committee's work to hold back a wind farm that would have threatened the mission of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Bradshaw then ceremonially, and literally, passed the gavel over to Rick Sumner officially ending his year as chairman of the chamber board.

Sumner said he will focus on four key points over the next year: Membership, value, remaining financially strong and maintaining effective committees.

Sumner wants to make sure the programs and services the chamber provides are a value to all chamber members and also add in many new members.

"it is important to remember that the more involved you get with your chamber, the more value you will receive from your chamber membership," Sumner said.

A video was shown at the beginning of the night's programming highlighting what the chamber means to its members and announcing that the chamber can definitively say it is more than 100 years old.

Records dating back to May of 1914 are the oldest on record of the chamber in Wayne County.