ROCKINGHAM -- Two longtime members of the community brought home some bragging rights Wednesday night after being honored with awards at the Great Falls Regional Chamber of Commerce's dinner annual dinner.
Katie Dearborn was named the 2014 Great Falls Person of the Year, while Tom MacPhee was given the Chamber's lifetime achievement award, solidifying their commitment to public service. The two received their awards at the Bellows Falls Moose Lodge, where the chamber's board of directors prepared an Italian meal for the approximately 100 guests in attendance. Marty Gallagher and Sharon Boccelli were also nominated for the Person of the Year award.
Dearborn grew up in Putney and moved to Westminster 12 years ago with her husband, Chad. She worked in Bellows Falls for 10 years before taking a job at the Connecticut River Bank branch in Walpole, N.H., two years ago. Connecticut River Bank, N.A.'s President and CEO, Gary W. Gray, released a statement expressing his joy about hearing of Dearborn's award.
"We are so proud of Katie; the time and effort she puts into her community is something for all of us to strive for," he said.
Dearborn knew she was nominated for the award but told the Reformer she never expected to hear her name called.
"It was a little overwhelming because I wasn't anticipating that I was to going to win," she said. "But I was happy for the recognition. I honestly love my community and I feel it's a privilege to do what I do and serve the various nonprofits that I serve on."
Dearborn has served as president of Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance, the treasurer for the chamber of commerce, and a board member of the Rockingham Revolving Loan Fund Committee and the Great River Co-op. She also coaches youth sports with her husband.
MacPhee said he was invited to the dinner but wasn't entirely sure why -- he had won the Person of the Year award in 1994 and thought it was unlikely he would win again, as he believes the only person to ever win it twice is Michael J.
"So I was a bit surprised when my name came up again. I didn't know when I got there what the story was. I had no clue," he recalled. "It just blew me away. I didn't expect this honor.
"It's very gratifying. I feel humbled that they would think that much of me to award it to me," he continued. "But I'm more comfortable giving out awards than receiving them."
MacPhee just started his 10th year on the Rockingham Selectboard, and his sixth or seventh as its chairman. He said he ran for re-election due to a few pressing issues Bellows Falls is facing, including the effort to reopen the Vilas Bridge (which connects the village to Walpole, N.H.) and the town's disagreement with TransCanada over the property value of the energy giant's local hydroelectric generation facility. The lower the facility's appraisal, the less the corporation will have to pay in taxes. MacPhee has said the appeal will likely come up in court this year.
Wednesday's guest speaker was Tripp Muldrow, of the South Carolina-based business consulting firm Arnett Muldrow. Rockingham Development Director Francis "Dutch" Walsh invited Muldrow as the guest speaker because Muldrow has done extensive work in Vermont in an effort to strengthen or revitalize downtowns both big and small, including in Brattleboro.
Muldrow said he was in Middlebury this week for retail market study and spoke Wednesday about retail development in Vermont and developing an action plan for economic development. He used Rutland as an example because his firm developed an action plan in 2008 and he revisited the city last year to see how it was implemented. He said the action plan was successful, as several new restaurants have opened on Merchants Row and a children's museum may be built in the city.
He also said he stressed that while "big box stores" may set up in sales tax-free New Hampshire, Vermont's downtown areas have the chance to offer more niche businesses.
Muldrow told the Reformer he feels his speech was warmly received Wednesday. He said he has gotten numerous e-mails thanking him.
"I usually do presentations and this was more off-the-cuff," he said with a slight laugh.
Walsh told the Reformer Muldrow's firm will likely be brought to Bellows Falls to offer business consulting, market analysis, branding and strategy for BFDDA.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.