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Chamber honors McGrady with Lifetime Service Award

Ragan Ward and Bob Williford pose with Chuck McGrady, the winner of the G. Ray Cantrell Lifetime Service Award. Ragan Ward and Bob Williford pose with Chuck McGrady, the winner of the G. Ray Cantrell Lifetime Service Award.

Chuck McGrady, who demonstrated “unparalleled leadership, wisdom and a genuine concern for the well-being of his constituents” throughout his three decades of service as a Flat Rock Village Council member, Henderson County commissioner and state representative, was honored with the top award of the night Thursday at the annual dinner of the Chamber of Commerce.

Named for the executive who led the business organization for 40 years, the G. Ray Cantrell Lifetime Service Award recognizes an individual who has shaped and guided the community through unwavering, selfless service over a long period of time.

“Chuck’s journey in public service began decades ago, marked by a steadfast commitment to improving the lives of the people he served,” the chamber said. “His tenure as a public servant was not just a job; it was a calling, a mission to create positive change and build a better future for all. … He tirelessly championed legislation that addressed critical issues, from education and healthcare to environmental conservation and economic development.”

The award also recognized McGrady’s role in recruiting Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to Mills River, his legislative work that paved that way for the state’s boom in craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, his work in land conservation and his championing of the Ecusta Trail.

“Chuck’s genuine compassion and approachability made him not just a representative but a true public servant—one who listened, understood, and acted on behalf of the people he served.”

Duke Energy Citizenship Award 

Carey O’Cain, active in Laurel Park and Henderson County since he moved back to his hometown after a career in construction management, was honored for service that showcases “a genuine commitment to the betterment of our town.”

First elected to the Laurel Park Town Council in 2009, O’Cain has been the town’s mayor since 2011.

The award presentation cited his leadership role in completing the town’s 10-acre Rhododendron Park, adopting a comprehensive land-use plan that incorporates the Ecusta Trail, restoring stream buffers along Laurel Green Creek, constructing a new public works facility, significantly increasing road repaving and transferring ownership of the town’s water system to the city of Hendersonville.

After earning a degree graduating in architectural construction from Clemson University in 1972, he served as a commercial general contractor in Denver, Colo.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Raleigh, before retiring in 2005.

A 1968 graduate of Hendersonville High School, O’Cain and his construction expertise played a pivotal role in saving the original Erle Stillwell-designed building when county commissioners were poised to abandon it. Carey and his wife, Lutrelle Livingston O’Cain own the Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop, where they serve bird lovers by sharing their avian expertise.

“Carey’s story is one of a passionate advocate for community, a devoted family man and a tireless worker for the improvement of our town,” the chamber said.

First Citizens Bank Amazing Customer Service Award 

The First Citizens Bank Amazing Customer Service Award went to AdventHealth Hendersonville for “turning each interaction into a genuine, personalized, and uplifting encounter.”

“ From the moment you step through their doors, you are greeted with warmth and compassion that transcends the typical healthcare experience,” the citation said. “AdventHealth Hendersonville has redefined the standards of customer service, turning each interaction into a genuine, personalized, and uplifting encounter.” The award also recognized Advent for innovation in service delivery that set “a benchmark for excellence in efficiency while never losing sight of the human touch that defines remarkable customer service.”

Education Champion Award

County Commission Chair Rebecca McCall was honored as the chamber’s Education Champion for service to Henderson County that is “more than just a political gig; it’s a lifelong connection.”

A graduate of East Henderson High School, McCall continued her education at Blue Ridge Community College, Brevard College and Montreat College. She and her husband, Ernest W. McCall Sr., have three grown children and seven grandchildren.

Retired from management roles at GE Lighting and Hubbell Lighting, McCall was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2018. Thanks to McCall’s leadership, the county and school system have instituted strategies to engage disconnected youth, including buying minivans to carry young people home from after-school activities and creating the upcoming Pathfinders mentoring program.

Camp Industry Leadership Award 

Dave McGlashan won the Camp Industry Leadership Award.

Affectionately known as D-Mac, he has a bachelor’s degree in human ecology from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in recreation and leisure studies.

After working with youth in outdoor programs in Oregon and Maine, McGlashan returned in the mid-2000s to his hometown, eventually becoming director and, since 2019, the owner of Adventure Treks.

“Despite facing the challenges of the pandemic, D-Mac ensured that Adventure Treks not only weathered the storm but continued operations in a modified manner, sustaining both its impact on teens and the revenue necessary for business maintenance,” the chamber said.

Adventure Treks offers more than 20 programs across North America and has provided transformative experiences for more than 20,000 students in total. 

As board president of the America Outdoors Association, McGlashan has been an effective public policy advocate for the youth summer camp and outdoor recreation industries.

“Tonight, we not only celebrate a leader in our Youth Summer Camp Industry but a visionary who consistently inspires and elevates those around him.”

Ambassador of the Year 

From the four quarterly ambassador award winners — Cheyenne Mathews, Tom Wolfarth, Cindy Novak and Elizabeth Estrada —the chamber chose Mathews as its 2023 Ambassador of the Year, presented by Four Seasons Foundation.

A risk consultant with AllChoice Insurance, Mathews plays a vital role in advising and educating people about the best ways to find the right coverage for the protection they need. She serves on the board the Fletcher Area Business Association and the Hope Coalition and is an assistant coach for the Hendersonville High School Lady Bearcats Softball Team.

2023 Small Business Leader of the Year 

Winners of quarterly Small Business Leader Awards in 2023 were Reliant Mailing Services, led by Kyle Bartley; Champion Comfort Experts, guided by Ritchie and Amy Lynn Holt; Noble Pest Solutions, managed by Donnie and Kelly Noble; and the Brand Door, led by Gary Heisey. Champion was named the 2023 Small Business Leader of the Year. The company, which started in 2004 with just three employees, now employs 90 people working from its offices in Flat Rock and Greenville, S.C. Specializing in plumbing, HVAC and electrical repair, Champion has not only achieved remarkable business growth but has also significantly invested in the community by creating jobs and fostering a positive work environment. What truly sets the company apart is exceptional community involvement. In the past year alone, the company donated a staggering $150,000 to community partners, including the United Way, Boys & Girls Club, Thrive, Safelight, Camp GLOW, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Crossnore Children’s Home, Henderson County Education Foundation, the Flat Rock Playhouse, Children & Family Resource Center, St. Gerard House, First Contact, AdventHealth Foundation, Pardee Hospital Foundation and Blue Ridge Health.

“The passion Ritchie and Amy Lynn have for our community is truly commendable. Their dedication to philanthropy has been acknowledged with prestigious accolades, including the WNC Business Philanthropic Award in 2016 and the Humanitarian of the Year Award from Safelight in 2022. Remarkably, Ritchie and Amy Lynn also extend their compassion as foster parents, demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of our community’s future generations.”

Top 4 Under 40

A new award, the Top 4 Under 40, recognized outstanding young professionals who have demonstrated exceptional talent, dedication and leadership in their fields. Winners were:

  • Business Owner/Entrepreneur: Mark Russell. A leader at Southern Alarm & Security since 2018, Russell has guided the company to remarkable growth while creating a workplace where employees thrive. He also serves as chair of the Board of Directors for the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development and vice president of the Henderson County Education Foundation.
  • Education: Sarah Swanzy. A beacon of inspiration for her students and colleagues alike, Swanzy models an unwavering commitment to fostering learning and personal growth goes beyond the classroom. Her innovative teaching methodologies have significantly impacted the educational experience, creating an inclusive and dynamic learning environment.
  • Non-Profit: Lauren Wilkie: A compassionate force in the non-profit sector, Wilkie brings a unique blend of expertise to her role as the executive director of Safelight. With more than two decades of experience, she has been a driving force in directing and developing programs various nonprofits. Her transformative leadership at Safelight has seen remarkable strides, doubling the annual operating budget and implementing innovative programs to better serve survivors.
  • Rising Star: Anderson Ellis. Ellis is not just a legal professional but a community leader with a heart for philanthropy. Acknowledged by NC Business magazine as part of the Legal Elite in 2019, Anderson shows a commitment to integrity and community service that makes him a standout in his field. Serving as the president of the Henderson County Bar Association and actively participating in community initiatives, he embodies the qualities of a rising star and a dedicated community leader.

Environmental Sustainability Award

For its “deliberate and purposeful journey towards sustainability,” Blue Ridge Community College received the Environmental Sustainability Award.

Among its achievements toward sustainability are an Adopt-a-Highway program, a recycling and waste reduction program, structured policies and procedures to ensure a sustainable workforce, energy and water conservation, campus landscape planting, paper consumption. The college also has achieved Bee Campus USA Certification, worked with Conserving Carolina and Jennings Environmental engineering firm on a stream and wetland restoration project along Bat Fork Creek, won the Duke Energy Business Energy Excellence Award, installed beehives on campus and installed fast-charge EV charging stations.

Nonprofit of the Year 

The Non-Profit of the Year Award went to Veterans Healing Farm.

Founded in 2013 by John and Nicole Mahshie, VHF supports the mental, emotional and physical well-being of veterans and their families. Led by executive director, Alan Yeck, the farm goes beyond traditional therapies to serve also as a hub for music, equine and low-energy neurofeedback therapies and more. Organic farming, canning and jam making create sustainable models that empower veterans with a renewed sense of purpose.  

Industrialist of the Year 

Stan Cooper, the first plant manager of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Mills River, was named Industrialist of the Year for 2023. 

As leader of the Sierra-Nevada site selection team, Cooper played a pivotal role in choosing Mills River for the brewery’s East Coast plant. Under his leadership, Sierra Nevada became synonymous with innovation, sustainability and environmental consciousness. The decision to establish the Mills River site was not merely a business move; it was a strategic commitment to fostering a culture that values both economic prosperity and environmental stewardship. Through initiatives focused on sustainability and environmental awareness, the brewing company has set a new standard for responsible business practices.