William Gaston Awards 2016

The 2016 recipients include:

Brett Keeter 2016Brett Keeter

Mr. Brett Keeter, a lifelong resident of Gaston County, has spent more than thirteen years serving his community. He is a 1999 cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in History. He currently serves as District Director for the Office of United States Congressman Patrick McHenry. In his official capacity, he serves as the Chief District Staff Member and oversees the Congressman's offices in Gastonia, Hickory, and Black Mountain. He manages outreach, constituent casework, and community and constituent relations in the seven counties of North Carolina's 10th Congressional District.

Brett has been described as highly responsive and instrumental in providing crucial access to the Congressman in his role as the primary liaison to city, county, and state officials, agencies, chambers of commerce, community boards, and task forces for the Congressman.

Prior to the Congressman's election in 2004, Brett served as Communications Director for McHenry's campaign and Legislative Director for his office in the North Carolina House of Representatives, where he served prior to Congress.

Brett was the 2012-13 President of the UNC Charlotte Alumni Association and served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors for ten years. He served during the University's establishment of a Division I football program and was instrumental in bolstering alumni support for the program. He was also involved in the creation of the first Alumni need-based scholarship and the re-establishment of the alumni awards program. Under his presidency, alumni networks were established in New York, Atlanta, and Washington, DC.

Civically, he gives of his time and talents to various organizations. As a member of the Gaston College Board of Trustees, a post he was appointed to by Governor Pat McCrory, Brett has participated in many transformative initiatives including the establishment of several new academic degrees and various renovation and construction projects for new facilities, including the Center for Advanced Manufacturing - a key priority for the Gaston County Economic Development Commission. He currently chairs the Committee on Advocacy and has served on the Campus Affairs, Finance, and Facilities Committees.

Brett has dutifully served as a member of the Gaston County Library Board of Trustees since 2003. Under his leadership as Chairman, the library saw the full restoration of its branch service hours, Wi-Fi service extended to all branches, and several physical improvements, including renovations to the children's and teen service areas and a new circulation desk at the main library. Known as an active and informed proponent of our library system, Brett has worked to improve relations between the Library Board and the Board of Commissioners through outreach and the effective communication of key issues, current needs, and emerging trends affecting our libraries.

He played a pivotal role as a member of the Library's Strategic Planning Committee, working with staff, Friends of the Library, community leaders, and the general public to shape the Library's new vision, mission, and goals while it launched its identity as a single-county library system. In his move from Vice-Chairman to Chairman, he provided a sense of stability during the transition of Library directors and oversaw the painstaking process of revising and updating every single Library policy.

He also served on the former Library - Gaston/Lincoln Regional Board during the challenging final years, overseeing the rigorous negotiations and details of the Board's dissolution.

A longtime supporter of Chamber initiatives, Brett currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce and sits on the Governmental Relations Committees for the Gaston, Lincoln, and Cleveland County Chambers of Commerce.

He is a former Vice-Chairman of the Gaston County Republican Party and is a parishioner of Saint Patrick's Catholic Church where he serves as a lector. In his leisure time, he is an avid runner who enjoys reading and spending time in the North Carolina Mountains.

Brett, the County Commission is indebted to you for your many years of service; for your continued advocacy of knowledge and learning and for your diligent support of our libraries. Your contributions make Gaston County a better place to live.

James Russell Beam 2016James Russell Beam

Mr. James Russell Beam is known by many in Gaston County as an enthusiastic and passionate friend, colleague and public servant. Known for treating others with dignity and sincerity, he has the ability to bring people together and exert a positive influence in any environment.

Ever willing to contribute his time and efforts, James has served his community for more than twenty-five years. His service dates back to the early nineties with his participation on the Cherryville Jaycees, where he was instrumental in reorganizing the local chapter and served as Vice President for two years. He also served on the Cherryville Country Club Board of Directors for two terms from 1996 to 1999 and 2002 to 2005.

He is serving in his seventh year on the Cherryville ABC Board, holding the office of Chairman for the past three years, and was recently appointed to the State ABC Board.

Truly passionate about the well-being of Gaston County and its citizens, he has served to further the interests of community health during his extensive service to the CaroMont Health Board of Directors. Currently, in his eleventh year on the Board, he is the Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee and Treasurer of the Board of Directors to which he has also served eleven years. The consummate professional, James brings a sense of organization and focus to the table and is able to bridge difficult situations with a calm, analytical approach - a characteristic that has made him an effective team member on various other Hospital committees including the Nominating Committee, Compensation Committee, and the Executive Committee. He also served three years on the CaroMont Foundation Board and two years as Chairman of the Board.

He is a true asset to any board or committee he serves on and that is perhaps best demonstrated in his eight years of service to the CaroMont Hospice Board of Directors. James founded the first CaroMont Hospice Golf Tournament which just held its sixth tournament and has raised $141,000 since 2011.

James has also served on the Gaston County Health Board and the Gaston County Economic Development Commission.

A native of Cherryville, James is a dedicated member of First Baptist Church in Cherryville and is an independent Financial Advisor with Capital Investment Group.

James is married to his wife, Wendy Beam, and has two children, Alexandra and Addison.

James has consistently shown enthusiasm for a challenge, regardless of the circumstances, and the County Commission is forever indebted to him for his many years of service and for his continuing efforts to make Gaston County a better place to live.

Stephen Campbell 2016Stephen D. Campbell

Mr. Stephen D. Campbell has fully ingrained himself in the greater Gaston County community. He is a diligent and responsive public servant who has devoted numerous years to the betterment of our County.

Stephen is a native of Roanoke, Virginia, and a graduate of the University of Richmond with a BS degree and a major in economics. He also attended Vanderbilt University where he earned an MBA degree with a concentration in finance.

He began his career as a financial services banker in the Commercial Banking Group of NCNB National Bank in Charlotte, now known as Bank of America. In 1986, he was transferred to Gastonia to head up the bank's commercial banking operations in Gaston County, and in 1987, he became the Market Executive for Gaston County. He continued to serve in various local and regional management positions with the Bank overseeing the bank's commercial banking activities in Gaston and surrounding counties.

Stephen is an avid supporter of higher education initiatives and as a member of the Gaston College Board of Trustees, he has helped the College Board navigate complex financial decisions, playing a pivotal role in the success of numerous projects. In his thirteenth year, he is the current Secretary of the Board and has also served three years as Chairman. He has chaired the Board Finance Committee for four of the last ten years and has helped guide the Committee through important financial decisions for the College related to its various budgets, Capital projects, land acquisitions, the Connect NC State Bond referendum, audits, reversions, fees, funding for salaries and advanced degrees, café operations, and legislative priorities resolutions.

Stephen has played an integral role in the growth of Gaston College and much of its success over the years can be attributed to his analytical savvy and effective leadership skills. Accomplishments realized during his tenure include the Brenard Dalton Public Safety Driving Track; the David Belk Cannon Health Institute; Cochrane Science and Technology Building; and, the Robinson Classroom Building. Several renovation projects have taken place, particularly, the Pharr Trade and Industrial Building; the CAS Radio Broadcasting area; the Myers Center Café ADA Compliance, and the transformation of the Myers Center Auditorium to the Myers Center Multipurpose Auditorium. He was also instrumental in the development and implementation of a new Strategic Plan for 2014-19, a new Facilities Master Plan for the next five years, and in the planning and ongoing progress of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

His vast experience and financial background have been a true resource to the many civic and community organizations he has served. He has been on the Foundation Board since 2013, serving as Investment Treasurer since 2014. He has also served the Board of Directors of the Heart Society of Gaston County and the Schiele Museum of Natural History; he has chaired the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce and served as Campaign Chairman of the United Way of Gaston County. Other service includes the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Gaston County; the Piedmont Council of the Boy Scouts of America; the Industrial Development and Pollution Control Authority of Gaston County; the Gaston County Economic Development Commission; the Arts Council of Gaston County and the Alliance for Children and Youth.

His service to Gaston County has earned him much deserved recognition, including the Paul Harris Fellowship from the Gastonia East Rotary Club for service to the community and the Distinguished Service Award presented by the Jaycees of Gaston County.

A loving husband and father, he has three children with his wife Trisha and is a long-time member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Gastonia.

Steve, the County Commission is indebted to you for your many years of service and for your continuing efforts to make Gaston County a better place to live.

Dick Cromlish 2016Dick Cromlish

Mr. Dick Cromlish has been described by his colleagues as a reliable and engaged proponent of economic development and quality growth. Ever-present and willing to help, Dick possesses a strong sense of responsibility and has been a stable presence on the Gaston County Economic Development Commission (EDC) for more than 21 years. Known for his willingness to "roll up his sleeves", his enthusiasm and exemplary work ethic have made him indispensable as the Vice-Chairman of the EDC, a leadership role he has maintained for numerous years.

He is a lifelong resident of Belmont, with the exception of a few years when he resided in Biloxi, Mississippi and Savannah, Georgia. He has diligently given of his time and vast knowledge to the citizens of his community and served as a City Councilman for twelve years.

He has been the Manager and President of School Resources, Inc. (formerly School Specialties, Inc.) for 47 years and is an active member of First Presbyterian Church, in Belmont, serving as Deacon, Elder, Scout Master, and Assistant Scout Master for more than 30 years.

A strong family man with deeply rooted principles, Dick has been married to his wife, Sandra Killian Cromlish for 52 years and has two sons, Stan and Travis - who were both Eagle Scouts.

Being an active member of the community, Dick has served five years as; a former board member of Citizens South Bank; founding member of Keep Belmont Beautiful Organization, with more than seven years of service; current member and past president of the Montcross Chamber of Commerce (formerly Belmont Chamber of Commerce) for 46 Years; current member and past president of Belmont Rotary Club for 46 years; current Treasurer for the Belmont Fire Department Firemen's Relief Fund with 37 years of service; founding and current member of Mended Hearts Chapter 379 at CaroMont Heart for more than six years; served on the Garden Parkway Study Committee in1989; and, is a current member of the Gaston County Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.

His dedication and willingness to serve has earned him much deserved recognition. He received the Belmont Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award in 2001 and was a Belmont Rotary Club, Paul Harris designee.

In a recent quote, Dick exclaimed "I believe elected office is a public trust. Your pledge is to serve the public, not yourself and not each other. If we keep it that simple, we will have a great and strong government." Perhaps that simple statement best sums up Dick's integrity, selflessness and devotion to civic service.

Dick, the County Commission is forever grateful and indebted to you for your many years of service and for your continuing efforts to make Gaston County a better place to live. Your frontline and behind-the-scenes work is inspiring and has touched many, many lives.