By Wendy Holdren
The 93rd Annual Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce Dinner was held Friday and the organization honored Frank Wood, Beckley Newspapers publisher, with the 2013 Community Service Award.
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito served as the guest speaker and addressed some of the hot button issues going on in Washington.
Victor Flanagan, chairman of the Chamber, noted that the BRCCC is the second largest in the state and the most active.
Flanagan then introduced Wood calling him a true community servant and “the publisher of one of the most influential newspapers in the state, winning awards for design, editing, reporting, advertising and photography.”
“Tonight, we award Frank Wood with the highest honor the Chamber can present,” Flanagan said.
He reviewed Wood’s career in newspapers, noting that he got his start 44 years ago in advertising and sales at The Beckley Post-Herald and Raleigh Register. Wood worked in North Carolina for a brief period of time as a publisher in Elizabeth City, then accepted a publisher’s position in Fairmont in 1990. From there, he went on to become the publisher of Beckley Newspapers, as well as a regional manager for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. He is a two-time president of the West Virginia Press Association, was named the WVPA’s Adam R. Kelly Premier Journalist in 2012, and is a past board chairman for the local chamber.
“He is best summed up by Butch Antolini (general manager and executive editor of The Register-Herald) who describes Wood as ‘a tremendous mentor, colleague, and friend. I have been involved in the newspaper industry for more than 35 years and while I’m sure there are others out there, no other person has made an impression on me as to what a true newspaperman and community leader should be.’”
Wood then took the podium and said, “If Victor would have read that one more time, I wouldn’t have to say anything.”
The crowd welcomed him with laughter and a huge round of applause.
“This is not about me, but others in the room. Thank you to the Chamber and the wonderful staff.”
“As Butch will tell you I like all the awards the newspaper wins,” Wood said, “But of all the awards you can receive, the best is a community service award.
“It makes me proud to accept this award on behalf of the newspaper and the staff, which allows me to go out into the community and be active. Community service is what it’s all about.”
He also thanked his family, neighbors and friends for being there to show their support.
“It’s special (that my neighbors are here) because they showed up, but even more special because they had to pay to get in,” Wood laughed.
Wood, who has been named the 2013-2014 Campaign Chair for the United Way, ended his speech with a call for volunteerism.
He noted that last year’s chair, Richard Jarrell, did an excellent job meeting the $500,000 goal.
“With Margaret Ann O’Neal (United Way Executive Director) on one side and Sherrie Hunter (United Way Campaign Vice Chair) on the other, we can’t fail.”
Wood said there is a great need in our community and he called all volunteers to come to action whenever possible.
He ended by saying that he and his wife Jo Ann will celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary Tuesday.
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito took the stage next and thanked the Chamber for inviting her to speak.
“Congratulations to Frank Wood, who seems to be extremely deserving of the award. He had a great end, with his calling for volunteerism. It’s about helping your community.”
Capito said that’s the great thing about West Virginia — We are one large community.
“We have such ties to our community and our families.”
She said come this July, the future of West Virginia relationships will be tied to the world, thanks to the Boy Scouts of America.
“We’re going to show them what we’re all about. I look forward to welcoming the Boy Scouts and thanking them for their investment in our state.”
She said the Scouts have the potential to be an economic driver, a prideful driver, and an educational driver.
“These people coming may decide they want to live here or even raise a family here some day.”
During her introduction, it was noted that she graduated from Duke University.
“I don’t mention that often because a lot of people don’t like Duke, especially when they’re playing basketball,” Capito said. “But what wasn’t mentioned was my major.”
Her major was zoology and many people asked her how in the world that related to political science.
“It equipped me to serve in the biggest zoo in America, Washington, D.C.,” she said, to the crowd’s delight.
Capito said there is a lot of uncertainty right now in Washington.
“There is dysfunction and an inability to tackle large problems.”
She noted the struggles with the fiscal cliff, sequestration, the debt limit, and tax reforms.
“We know how to cut in our personal life, but Washington does not,” Capito said, as she noted the $17 trillion debt our country faces.
She said Congress must come together, in a bipartisan way, to make decisions about spending, tax reform, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
“The longer you wait to make these choices, the harder they are. We need to bring our ideas together, compromise, and move forward.”
As for energy issues, she said she was preaching to the choir in a room full of southern West Virginians.
“Energy is a jobs economy. There are things out there to help us keep coal in the energy mix.”
She said the President does not agree with her position on coal, which has caused some job loss, but all the West Virginia representatives are on the same page with this issue.
She said there is also uncertainty with the Affordable Care Act and how that will affect employees and individuals without healthcare.
“Congress has the lowest approval rate, possibly of all time. There is a 9 percent approval rate right now, which means only our family and staff approve of us.”
She said she thinks that after the 2012 campaigning, political leaders are ready to tackle the big issues.
Capito also noted the many recent tragedies our nation has faced and hopes to see those tragedies bring us together in a big way.
“I want to leave you tonight with a sense of optimism. Thank you to all who not only work hard, but who volunteer hard.”
As she walks up the Capitol steps, she said she thinks of all those who walked there before her on the grooved and worn surfaces.
“They dedicated their lives to preserve freedom and liberties. We still have the same things in our hearts, despite the uncertainty and bickering. Please take that to heart, that the driving forces and love of country is still there and we’re going to work hard to keep it.”
Master of Ceremonies Jay Quesenberry started the evening by acknowledging the distinguished guests in the room, and extending a special thank you to Beckley-Appalachian Regional Hospital for sponsoring the event for 19 years.
Also, Flanagan presented Chris Hall, immediate past BRCCC board chairman, with an award for his outstanding service during the past year.
— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald