Lake Whitney Chamber presents annual awards

April 19, 2023

The Lake Whitney Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards banquet at the HILCO Civic and Events Center in Itasca Thursday, April 13, to celebrate accomplishments and honor members of the Lake Whitney community.

Young Person of the Year Colby Estill (center) with Chamber Treasurer Jayson Lam and Miss Pioneer Day Jillie Milam

Colby Estill- Young Person of the Year

Whitney High School senior Colby Estill received the Young Person of the Year Award. He was recognized as a model student who is loved by his peers and adults alike. Estill was described as a dedicated leader, athlete and volunteer in the community.

Whitney High School Principal Amy Leech introduced Estill and said that the decision from her administrative team to nominate him was unanimous.

Estill’s volunteer work has included Whitney High School PALS, Hill County Special Olympics, Red Cross blood drives, Lake Whitney Ministerial Alliance food bank, Salvation Army, Hill County Adoption Day, Texas Ramp Project, Pioneer Days and others.

He is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council, a class officer and was recently designated “Mr. WHS.”

He has been a part of historic seasons in varsity basketball and baseball, serving as a valuable team member and earning district accolades in both sports.

His U.S. History teacher, Leslie Richters, described him as a student who has the ability to lead with sincere humility. His baseball coach, Michael Villarreal, called him one of the most extraordinary young men he is encountered in his coaching career, adding that he is “a genuine, humble and patient athlete who puts others above himself.”

Estill will graduate in the top 10% of his class and plans to major in construction science at Texas A&M University.

Educator of the Year Stacy Brisco (left) Miss Pioneer Day Jillie Milam and Chamber President Adam Bain

Stacy Brisco- Educator of the Year

The Educator of the Year Award was presented to Stacy Brisco, teacher at Whitney Elementary School. She was thanked for her efforts to connect with students and their families, encourage creativity and serve as a mentor to her fellow educators over the past 15 years.

Whitney Elementary School Principal Amber Seely called Brisco a teacher who has “mastered the craft of teaching.” She said that Brisco creates a classroom environment that encourages creativity and supports all learners. “You want to be a part of the fun when you enter her classroom,” Seely said.

Brisco was described as a team member who is first to sign up to pilot new programs or try new strategies. “Her ability to analyze data and make adjustments in her instruction helps improve student achievement,” Seely said.

As a mother to three children who are involved in activities and the wife of a police officer, Brisco has learned to juggle an unconventional, busy schedule. “Despite her busy personal schedule, Mrs. Brisco always shows up to volunteer,” Seely said

Citizen of the Year Lake Whitney Public Library Director Denise Carter

Denise Carter- Citizen of the Year

Lake Whitney Public Library Director Denise Carter was honored with the Citizen of the Year Award, presented by Chamber Director John McCullough.

Carter brought her 44 years of experience to the Whitney library in 2006 and quickly began working to build a new library completely through donations and expand programs.

“Denise quickly had a vision for the library and coordinated a drive to build a new library at no cost to the taxpayers of Whitney or the county,” McCullough said.

In 2014, the library moved to its new home at 602 East Jefferson Avenue, a 6,300 square-foot facility with more space to serve the community.

“It is the belief of the chamber that Denise Carter has made an investment in her community with her leadership, work ethic, commitment to the library and her love for books,” McCullough said.

Carter was unable to attend the ceremony and Mayor Jerry Barker accepted the award on her behalf.

Jim Cato & Vanessa Meyer- Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame Award recipient Jim Cato, including an earlier photo of Mr. Cato from his days as a local pharmacist

This year’s Hall of Fame Award recipient was Jim Cato, who was honored for the many ways he has served his community, church and family in his 95 years of life.

Just a few of his many efforts have included work as principal officer of the International Association of Lions Clubs and a Whitney Lions Club member since 1954, president of Whitney Hospital Authority, Hill College Board of Regents member and Shorthorn Association delegate. Mr. Cato was also the longtime pharmacist at Cato Drug in downtown Whitney for many years.

As a Hill College board member from 1984 through 2016, he oversaw the expansion of Hill College into Johnson County and additions to the Hillsboro campus, including the W.R. Auvenshine Library, the Bob Bullock Sports Center and the Vara Martin Daniel Performing Arts Center. In 2021, he was awarded the Pillar of the Community Award by the college.

Hall of Fame Award recipient Vanessa Meyer (center) with Chamber Executive Director Janice Sanders and Miss Pioneer Day Jillie Milam

Last year’s Hall of Fame honoree was also present at the banquet to receive her award. Vanessa Meyer was unable to attend due to cancer treatments last year but accepted her award in person at this year’s banquet.

Chamber Member of the Year – The Lakelander (Left To Right) Tessa Ray, Shannon Cottongame, Ellie Mahan

The Lakelander Newspaper- Chamber Member of the Year

The Lakelander Newspaper was recognized with the Chamber Member of the Year Award and honored for its efforts to keep the community informed since 1988.


Auction item sponsors for the event were: Brewed Awakening Coffee Co., Poore Family Feed Store, The Lakelander, Go 2 Liz, Rachel Parker, Dick’s Canoes, Riverplace Pottery, Salon 110, TK Powerwash, WB Marina Market, I Can Only Imagine, Connie Van Driel, Lake Whitney Arts, Lake Whitney Custom Homes, Build 1 Way Construction and The Place at Lake Whitney.

Live auction sponsors were: Bosque Real Estate, Peoples

Bank, Citizens State Bank, Citizens National Bank of Hillsboro, TNMP, Hill County Insurance and HILCO Electric.

Chamber directors and staff involved in the banquet included: Executive Director Janice Sanders, President Adam Bain of Lake Whitney State Park, Treasurer Jayson Lam of Peoples Bank, Director Joe Marek of HILCO Electric, Director Lori Proctor of 24:15 Realty, Director Connie Terry of Citizens State Bank, Director Steve Peacock of Citizens National Bank, Director Rudy Reyna of Build 1 Way Construction, Director Jean Drugan of Whitney Senior Center and Director John McCullough of Whitney ISD.

Los Verdes catered the meal, and John Thiele served as auctioneer.

The annual banquet is a major fund raiser for the chamber, which has over 250 members representing businesses, organizations and individuals that strive to improve the business climate and general welfare of the Lake Whitney area.

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