Chambless named ‘Citizen of the Year’; Harrells, Kilgore in Hall

WPHS Football Coach Chris Chambless
Steve Rogers
Staff Writer

West Point celebrated a team Tuesday night. Not a sports team, which has plenty to celebrate, but a spirit of cooperation and leadership that leads to a better community.

But with the theme of “team” for the annual event, West Point’s High School football coach, Chris Chambless, was named the community’s “Citizen of the Year” during the 93rd annual Growth Alliance and Chamber banquet.

The honor, presented by Roger Burton, a former player who now is one of his key assistants, caught Chambless by surprise.

He’d come to pay tribute to Robert and Caroline Harrell, long-time supporters of Green Wave football who were being inducted into the West Point Clay County Hall of Fame.

In winning three straight Class 5A state championships and five since 2009, Chambless and his teams have brought widespread recognition and acclaim to the community “and made it clear what West Point stands for and is all about,” Klutts said.

“You can’t say enough about the difference he has made to all of us,” Burton said of Chambless, who first came to West Point as defensive coordinator in 1999, became head coach in 2006, and has been named Coach of the Year by two different publications in 2017 and 2018.

His wife, Elisha, and their three children, Jake, Bo and Loxley, were there to surprise him.

”All of you here tonight celebrate the fruits of your labor, not just at work or at home, but what you do above and beyond your job, and your family obligations, what you do on a daily basis that makes West Point a better place to to live, work, and raise a family, makes it better for everyone,” Growth Alliance and Main Street Director Lisa Klutts told more than 400 people during the annual awards night.
“This year, truly learning what it means to be part of a team, I have never been more proud to be part of this one….Talent wins games, teamwork wins championships,” she continued, relying on the sports theme for success.

“Some team members left us far too soon; they left a legacy and made an impact. Full of character and contribution they made us better people just by knowing them and learning from them. For the rest of us, we look out for each other, build each other up and support each other,” Klutts said as she recapped the Growth Alliance’s successful 2018, from its monthly “Wake Up West Point” networking events and another Golden Triangle Leadership class to the 40th anniversary Prairie Arts Festival and the visit from the Kansas City Southern Holiday Train.

And for the 35th year since it was started in 1984, the West Point and Clay County Hall of Fame, sponsored by Renasant Bank, inducted three more members for the distinguished service they’ve given to the community.

The three — Caroline Harrell and her late husband, Robert Harrell Sr. and long-time educator Naomi Kilgore — bring to 97 the number of people inducted into the Hall.

And like any team, it’s never clear who is going to show up each year and make a contribution, Klutts noted.

“But just when you think you can’t top one year, the next one comes along and does even better,” Klutts said of the year-to-year achievements and accomplishments.

Klutz paid tribute to Tim “Mookie” Wilson, with the Director’s Award for organizing the “Lilipalooza” to benefit Lila Usrey, the West Point girl who successfully fought cancer.

“We recognize that something of this magnitude could not have been accomplished alone,” Klutts said, also saluting her husband, Jeremy, who played a major role in the event.

“But leadership emerges on every team, first through an idea, then continues by talent and determination to see that idea through. Words are not adequate of the far-reaching impact you made that day and the days to come, as we waited and prayed for Lila Usry got come home healthy,” Klutts said in presenting the award to Wilson.

Likewise, the Volunteer of the Year Award went to a face that’s familiar in more ways than one.

“The work a volunteer does can transform a whole community or it can change the life of one person…you just have to want to make a difference,” Klutts said leading up to presenting the award to Mike Goree, who has played Santa Claus and St. Nicholas for more than 30 years.

Main Street West Point also recognized:

Best Downtown Beautification — Three Daughters on Main for the work done on the building and signage;

Best Downtown Rehabilitation — Mossy Oak/Haas Outdoors for the renovation of three connected historic buildings into corporate headquarters;

Best Promotion of the Year — West Point Animal Shelter for its annual Mardis Gras fund raiser;

President’s Award — Annabelle’s Antique Mall and owners Beverly and Bill Phillips for its outdoor and window displays.