OXFORD – Along with gourmet fare, the annual banquet of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation served up appeals to trade locally and to maintain the values that have afforded the community a high quality of life.
Chamber officials noted the contributions of several area residents, including outgoing Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth, whose eight-year tenure has seen unparalleled growth, a new sports complex, transit system and historic preservation, among other advances.
Dr. Keith Mansel was honored in absentia as Citizen of the Year. Mansel retired from private medical practice due to health problems but helped start and run Oxford Medical Ministries.
“Our 2009 Citizen joined other volunteers working tirelessly to make health care accessible to the working uninsured of our community,” said incoming Chamber Chairman David Harbison.
Terry and Charlene Ott were honored with the Distinguished Service Award for efforts on the Oxford Tourism Council, Oxford Newcomer’s Club, Retiree Ambassador Program and other community service.
Robert Khayat, who is retiring June 30 as the University of Mississippi’s chancellor, noted that with both Oxford and Ole Miss getting new leaders next month, this is a “defining moment” for the community.
Khayat, a former NFL player, told of lining up against a lineman who outweighed him by 100 pounds.
“He proceeded to whip me all over the field and called me ‘Sweetpea,’ he said. That was a defining moment for me: I knew right then I was going to law school.”
Turning serious, Khayat spoke of Oxford’s exceptional quality of life that stems from a strong community spirit that surfaced even after its darkest days.
“We’ve had vision, we’ve had courage, but most of all we’ve had unity,” he said. “We have the opportunity to stay a truly unique community if we stay true to the values we have.”
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal