:A shocked Judge Samuel Ozburn, with his wife Rhonda, makes his way to the podium after being announced as the winner of the R.O. Arnold Award. - Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn is the winner of the R.O. Arnold Award, bestowed by the Newton County Chamber of Commerce at its annual meeting Thursday evening at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center.
Past R.O. Arnold Award recipient Louise Adams presented the award to Ozburn, who said he was "speechless" and "unprepared," having been lured to the meeting under the pretense of giving the invocation should the invited pastor be absent. Considered to be the most prestigious honor a Newton County resident can receive, the award recognizes a lifetime of community involvement and achievement.
"I don't feel like I deserve this. There are so many more people that do. I seek to reflect Christ every day when people appear before me and going about my daily affairs," he said.
Ozburn is a lifelong resident of Newton County who was appointed Superior Court judge of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit in 1995 and has been reelected four times without opposition.
In addition to his service in professional organizations, including serving as chairman of the Court Security Committee for the Council of Superior Court Judges since 2000 and serving as past president of the Alcovy Circuit Bar Association, Ozburn has a long legacy of community service.
Ozburn created a unique program that allows students to tour the Judicial Center, observe court proceedings, speak with judges and other court officials, shadow court personnel and view videos concerning youth offenders. Thousands of students have participated in the program, including Eagle Scout candidates seeking to earn civil service merit badges.
In 2001, working with Literacy Volunteers of America, he established a program requiring all defendants in the Alcovy Circuit who are placed on probation to participate in literacy activities and to obtain a GED if they do not have a high school diploma.
"He has made a difference in the lives he has touched and he has made the difference between hope and despair, love and hate, understanding and anger, success and failure," Adams said.
Ozburn has served as chairman of the board of directors for the Salvation Army since 1981 and was instrumental in establishing the Salvation Army Service Center and Thrift Store in Covington.
He is past president of the Kiwanis Club of Covington and the Newton County Mental Health Association; a past member of the Chamber board of directors and the Recreation Commission; and is chairman of the board of trustees of the Homer F. Sharp Memorial Scholarship Trust.
Ozburn also created, in cooperation with the Newton County sheriff, a work release program for low-risk probationers and child support defendants as a means of collecting fines and child support payments, with detainees paying the operational costs. He received the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service in 2011.
Ozburn is a member of Eastridge Community Church, where he serves as chairman of the Board of Elders and is a Bible study teacher. He is a graduate of Newton County High School, Oxford College of Emory University, and the University of Georgia, as well as the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University.
He and his wife of 39 years, Rhonda Norman Ozburn, have two sons, David and Britt, a daughter-in-law, and one granddaugther, Sadie.
Dick James Small Business Award
Bradley's Bar-B-Q was the recipient of the Dick James Small Business Award, accepted by owners Brad and Martha Stewart. The award was created in 2000 to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of small businesses in honor of the late Dick James, a longtime president of the Chamber of Commerce. Patrick Carmichael, chair of the Small Business Committee, presented the award, and said the restaurant is now a must-go destination when film crews are in town and for tourists. Brad Stewart thanked the community for its support. "We just ask that you continue to support us and we'll do our best to do you proud," he said. Bradley's Bar-B-Q opened in 1999 is located at 1160 Church St. in Covington and at 1955 Sigman Road Conyers.
Emerging Business of the Year
Bullritos, owned by John and Angie Beszborn, was the recipient of the Emerging Business of the Year Award, recognizing an outstanding business that has made an impact in the business community through advancing best business practices and strengthening the employment base, among other criteria.
The Covington restaurant, located at 10327 Industrial Bd. NE, is the only Bullritos in Georgia. There are 20 franchises, with 18 in Texas and one in Louisiana. The Covington establishment has 11 employees. The Beszborns impacted the Bullritos franchise by developing a catering menu at the request of customers. The menu has been adopted by the entire franchise, said Chamber President Hunter Hall, who said the local restaurant's success is built on the ability to be adaptable, customer service and serving fresh food.
Spirit of Excellence
Former Chamber board of directors Chair Scott Willis received the Spirit of Excellence Award, voted on by Chamber staff to show appreciation for an individual that has gone above the norm in supporting and volunteering at the Chamber. Hall said Willis in 2010, with the unity of the Chamber board, asked for a 100 percent increase in funds from the city of Covington and Board of Commissioners for economic development. "It was a big ask. But it was his leadership and vision that put the wheels in motion," for the creation of 1,970 current and coming jobs and more than $1.2 billion in investment, Hall said.
It was Willis' idea to trademark the slogan "Hollywood of the South." Willis also called a meeting with the state economic development office to pitch Stanton Springs, that later resulted in an invitation to propose the site for the location of Baxter International.
Deal of the Year
The Deal of the Year went to Baxter International for its plan to open a bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Stanton Springs, bringing 1,500 jobs and investing $1 billion.
Land at the site has been cleared and construction is expected to begin this year, said Elizabeth Stoll, manager, state affairs for Baxter's Southeast division.
Stoll said Baxter conducted an extensive search for the right site and selected Stanton Springs because the area offers a talented workforce, a strong relationship with local and state governments and proximity to international transportation.
"We're in the beginning of a very strong partnership and we intend to be good corporate citizens in this community for many years to come," she said.
The evening also included the passing of the gavel by 2012 board of directors Chair Michelle Bryant Johnson to new Chair Paul Murphy, of C.R. Bard.