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HaysMed Associate Honored

Banquet shines light

Photo and Awards Presentation

Published on -2/3/2012
Hays Daily News
By DAWNE LEIKER

Hays Area Chamber of Commerce members celebrated the accomplishments of local business professionals during its annual banquet, Step Up and Step Out in 2012, on Thursday night at the Memorial Union Ballroom on the Fort Hays State University campus.

Strengthening ties and fostering more involvement with young professionals, the chamber implemented a new award, the Eagle Communications Rising Star award, naming its first recipient during the banquet's awards presentation.

Rising Star award winner Shane Smith, assistant vice president and commercial loan officer of Commerce Bank, has been involved with the Hays Area Young Professionals since he and his wife, Stacey, moved back to Hays in 2009. Smith quickly became a leader in the organization, according to Tammy Wellbrock, executive director of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce.

Smith, a native of Jetmore and FHSU graduate, also has been active in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ellis County and Hays Area Children's Center. He and his wife have two children.

"They are a fine family to have in the community," said Tom Thomas, president of Commerce Bank. "That's what Hays is looking for, those young adults coming back to town who want to raise their families here.

"Shane has a strong character. He's proactive and wants to do what he can in the community, not only to help young people, but to help the bank grow, too."

Thomas said he was glad to see the chamber implement the new award and recognize young professionals who are fulfilling leadership roles in the community.

Receiving many quality nominations for the new award was encouraging for Wellbrock.

"We always have good nominations for all our awards, but this was almost overwhelming to see all the people who were qualified," she said. "I love that they got behind this so wholeheartedly and sought different ways of recognizing their peers."

Other chamber award winners honored included:

* Pioneer Photography owners Leon and Ann Staab received the James Motor Co. Business Achievement Award. The Staabs, who retired Dec. 30 from Pioneer Photography, had been a part of the downtown Hays business landscape for 37 years.

"It takes a lot of people to build a downtown district, and it takes a few leaders," Traci Konrade, executive director of Downtown Hays Development Corp., said when asked about the Staabs' contributions. "It's really nice to see that those leaders get recognized for the hard work that they do."

* Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland Business Woman of the Year, Michelle Flax owner of Bildschon Windows, was nominated by Konrade, who said the nomination stemmed from Flax's influence on her as a career woman.

"A lot of people have those influences from professors at college, but as a working wife and mom, (Flax's influence) kind of shaped the career path that I wanted to take."

* The Most Valuable Citizen Award was given to Lance Smith, biomedicine manager at Hays Medical Center. Smith's positive attitude was a driving factor in the decision to nominate him, said Nikki Adams, director of associate development at HaysMed.

"I don't think there's anybody more deserving of an award like this than Lance," she said. "He's involved with the community and Wild West Festival.

"He's just a great individual."

More than 30 Wild West Committee members, family and friends who filed into the Memorial Union Ballroom to support Smith as he received the award attested to the fact Smith has touched many lives in the Hays community.

* Receiving the Hall of Fame Award, Bob Helm, Midwest Energy manager of corporate communications, has been active in the Hays community for many years. As an Optimist Club, Tiger Club and HACC member, Helm has maintained a high level of civic involvement.

He also has helped Midwest Energy ensure it gives back to its customers through various charitable organizations, said Tom Meis, Midwest Energy vice president of finance.

"Around the company, he is the guy that makes newcomers feel welcome and a part of the organization," he said. "He's been a major contributor to the community over the years.

"He's a positive force."

Merril Teller, chief meteorologist at KWCH-TV since 1981, gave the evening's keynote address.

In an effort to describe Kansas weather, Teller said the best term he could arrive at was "diverse."

"We really do have it all," he said. "Sunshine and clouds, rain and snow, thunderstorms, tornadoes ... even the occasional remnants of a hurricane."

Teller's speech included a much-requested forecast for the winter storm that had been predicted for today.

His forecast for rain later Thursday night was immediately realized when banquet-goers left Memorial Union, most umbrella-less as a steady rain fell.

Leadership of the chamber board of directors also changed ceremonially as Past Chairman Patrick Lowry of The Hays Daily News passed the baton to Eric Norris, director of Hays Public Library.