PIQUA – “She is a community giant in tiny shoes.”
Honoring the impact that 2017 Order of George award winner Joanna Hill Heitzman has had in the Piqua community, Director of the Piqua Public Library and past Order of George recipient Jim Oda introduced Heitzman as being a person who is “always difficult to say ‘no’ to,” but in a good way.
“I know some people that are going to be in deep trouble,” Heitzman said upon receiving the award.
The Order of George, the highest honor for service in the community, is Piqua’s Lifetime Achievement Award. As per tradition, it was kept secret until the annual Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce dinner, where Heitzman was surprised with the 50th installation of the award along with members of her family there to witness her receive the honor.
Oda provided some brief facts about the Order of George, such as it received its name from the phrase “let George do it,” referring to a volunteer who was always willing to do any task.
“The title is also related to the Order of George awards given in Russia, Britain, and Ethiopia for those willing to hit a fire-breathing dragon with a big stick,” Oda said, which was Oda’s way of introducing a woman who hit her own metaphorical dragons with the stick of community activism.
“Our honoree was a founder, organizer, leader, marketing czar, and fundraiser for the Miami County Foundation,” Oda said.
Oda said that Heitzman has raised funds in the past for the Piqua Memorial Hospital, the Children’s Medical Center, Dettmer Hospital, the Piqua United Way, the Joint Vocational School, Boy Scouts, and numerous other organizations. She served as the first elected chairperson of the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce and played a key role in raising community support for the Piqua Heritage Festival.
“She was among the first group of women to be inducted into the Piqua Rotary Club,” Oda said. “Which, up until then, had been a male bastion of active luncheon eaters. She brought to the club a sense of class, decorum, and sophistication to a very rowdy group.”
Heitzman also founded Access Piqua Television, serving as chairperson, programmer, and on-air personality.
“She has shaped the voice of our community through her over 40 years in the communication industry,” Oda said. “As the administration and marketing guru of WPTW Radio, she promoted dozens of groups and businesses in the Miami Valley.”
“My own daughter has told me I broke the glass ceiling before there ever really was one,” Heitzman said.
Heitzman discussed a few memories of her experience of what it was like trying to get Access Piqua Television on the air and encouraged the continued support of Piqua Channel 5 now.
“There are many, many of you who remember how we struggled to get the dollars … We’re in trouble now I understand,” she said, telling the audience to call the city office if they are able to support the station. All in all, Heitzman said, “It’s been an interesting road.” She ended with a joke, saying, “And I hope Mike Yannucci is listening because I think you just did my obituary tonight.”
A year in review
The 71st annual Piqua Chamber of Commerce dinner also recognized their achievements, including adding 20 new members, conducting 16 ribbon cutting ceremonies, hosting 12 Business After Hours events, graduating 24 young adults from Teen Leadership, the annual Golf Outing, and the Steak Fry and Auction.
The following businesses also received 2016 Commercial Beautification awards: Best One Tire & Service, Comfort Inn, Family Farm and Home, Unity National Bank, the Veteran’s Memorial Park, and Planet Fitness.
It was then time for 2016 Chairman of the Board Sean Ford to turn over the chairman seat to another, but not without giving many thanks to the chamber members, the chamber staff, the Board of the United Way for allowing Ford to volunteer his time, and his family.
Ford then introduced the 2017 Chairman of the Board, Justin Sommer, who is also economic development director and assistant city manager for the city of Piqua.
Sommer then introduced seven new board members, including Marky Reedy of Thrivent Financial; Kathy Magill of Fifth Third Bank; Ben Zimmerman of Jamieson & Yannucci Funeral Home; Joe Dickerson of Koverman, Staley & Dickerson Insurance Services; Tom Coble of Hartzell Hardwoods; Trent Karn of Hemm’s Glass Shops; and Jordan Knepper of the Piqua Arts Council.
Retiring board members were also honored, including Wayde Davis of Koverman, Staley & Dickerson Insurance Services; Kelly Hostetter of Hartzell; Mike Mengos of Main Source Bank; and Dave Vosler of Tempo Woods.
Honoring the “Energizer bunny” of Mainstreet
President of the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce Scott Miller explained that the annual Chamber Achievement Award, established in 1992, honors “outstanding volunteers” of the chamber and the city.
“Chamber volunteers give unselfishly of their time and talents and this volunteer is no exception,” Miller said about the 2016 Chamber Achievement Award recipient Lorna Swisher, executive director of Mainstreet Piqua.
“Our honoree is a fun-loving, generous, and dedicated member who exudes the mission of the chamber in every way possible,” Miller said. “Everyone needs a volunteer who not only contributes ideas for program improvement but is comfortable in providing critical assessments of new ideas.”
Swisher is a longtime member of the chamber whom Miller commended for “her commitment and enthusiasm to improving the Piqua community” as well as her “positive approach to planning special events.” The events includes Taste of the Arts, Farmer’s Markets, Chocolate Walk, Christmas on the Green, Holiday Parade, Duck Drop, Rock Piqua!, Holly Jolly 5K Run, Holiday Horse Parade, and Piqua-opoly.
Miller honored Swisher’s dedication to Piqua, calling her the “Energizer bunny” of Mainstreet and saying that the community and the chamber were stronger because of Swisher.
Business Person of the Year named
“He walks hand-in-hand with our community and encourages his associates to do the same,” Miami Valley Centre Mall manager Peggy Henthorn said.
The chamber honored President of Unity National Bank Brett Baumeister with the 2016 Business Person of the Year award, commending him for being a “recognized community leader.” His contributions to the community include serving many organizations and being an active board member of the Miami County YMCA, Troy Development Council, and the Piqua Community Foundation. Baumeister also serves as the treasurer of the Piqua Area United Way, a member of the Piqua City Schools’ Superintendent’s Advisory Council, a member of the Citizens for a Better Piqua, and the founder and chairman of the iPiqua Fund.
“His entire team of bankers works hard to improve the strength of our community,” Henthorn said. “He believes that strong communities are built with local volunteers, donations, and leadership. From sponsoring a basketball scoreboard, to tutoring elementary school students, to raising funds for United Way, you’ll find Unity National Bank involved in every aspect with our honoree (Baumeister) leading the way.”
“This is really due to them,” Baumeister said about his team of employees.
Baumeister has worked 26 years in his field, beginning as a credit analyst in Norwalk. He has earned a finance degree from the University of Toledo and graduated from Stonier Graduate School. Henthorn explained that Baumeister was a senior vice president of commercial lending and has held numerous other executive positions within the Park National Family of Community Banks.
Reach Sam Wildow at email@example.com or (937) 451-3336