Chamber honors 2 dedicated to community

Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services 99th Annual Meeting at Camden Falls Thursday night embraced inspiration, recognition and moving ahead.

Chamber President and CEO John Detwiler highlighted the chamber and visitors center accomplishments for the last year as well as talking about the future the chamber has in the region as it heads into its 100th year.

Among the accomplishments Detwiler shared were two commercials the organization made promoting tourism opportunities in Seneca County.

But the event really was a time to honor people who have impacted the community.

Shirley Smith, director of the Family Counseling Center in Tiffin, was given the Women’s Career Excellence Award. The award honors women who strive for the highest level of professional achievement, excelling in their field while devoting time to their community.

Smith has been a trailblazer, serving as a charter member of the League of Women Voters and holding multiple positions locally and on the state board. She was the first female member of the Tiffin Kiwanis Club, eventually serving at lieutenant governor. She remains active in St. Paul Methodist Church, serving in several capacities.

“It means a great deal to me,” Smith said. “When I look at the lineup of former winners, it really is very humbling because I don’t think I measure up to all that. I guess more than anything I think God is my leader and I’ve wanted to do what God has wanted me to do and that’s help other people. With his help, I hope I’ve done that.

Smith is the first person to win both chamber awards. She won the Outstanding Citizenship Award in 2008.

Winning the Outstanding Citizenship Award this year was Rich Focht, President and CEO of Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. Before coming into that role, Focht served in the U.S. Army and was the Tiffin city administrator before moving into his role with SIEDC. He plans to retire at the end of the year after serving 23 years.

The award is designed to honor an individual who has proven to be an extraordinary asset to Tiffin. The honoree is a success in their field, a volunteer in their community and possess exemplary character traits.

“It means a lot (to win this),” Focht said. “Having been born and raised here, it’s always been really important what happened in the community and the success the community had. Anyway I’ve been able to help with that, I’m very proud.

“There are a lot of great people that live here and having them involved in all the things that we’re doing, this is as much on them as anything I’ve ever done. It’s like I said, nobody succeeds or fails on their own. We have some good people here. We have some good things going and I’m confident we’ll keep it going. We’ll get even better.

“So I see a bright future for our community.”

Cedar Point Marketing Programs Manager Bryan Edwards was the speaker for the evening.

Edwards has worked at Cedar Point for 22 years, starting as a seasonal lifeguard when he was in college. When his parents told him they weren’t paying for him to go to Bowling Green State University to be a lifeguard, he interned in the marketing department. There he found his niche. After a few other stops within the amusement park, he moved into the marketing department permanently.

“I work at a place that creates memories,” Edwards said. “Now I see it through my kids’ eyes.”

The Sandusky amusement park, one of four Cedar Fair properties in Ohio, has been voted the world’s best amusement park for 16 years running by Amusements Today.

While it’s headed toward its fourth straight year of record attendance and record revenue, Edwards highlighted the residual effects Cedar Point has on the region as average stay in the area of the more than 6 million people who come through the turnstiles every year is 2.1 days. That impacts lodging, restaurants, tourist destinations and retail establishments along the path to Cedar Point.

He said he loves working with organizations such as the Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services because he knows the economic benefits area such as Seneca County reap from Cedar Point.

“It was a great evening and, of course, it’s all about recognizing individuals that have had great accomplishments,” Detwiler said. “I think you saw that tonight with Shirley and Rich and Bryan giving out some (Cedar Point tickets) and us recognizing board members moving on and off. It’s all about recognition.

“(Inspiration) is what it’s about … It’s just good stuff.”

Brad Newman, board chair, and Steve Dandurand were honored for their years of service on the chamber’s board of trustees. Both will be stepping down at the end of the year. Voted to replace them were Rich Zeis of Zeis Development Limited and Joe Obringer of Kuebler Shoes.