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Residents honored at Chamber banquet
Fire chief named 2012 Citizen of the Year
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Palm Harbor Fire Chief James Angle is named the community’s Citizen of the Year Oct. 5 at the annual Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet.
Outgoing Greater Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce board Chairman Paul Hittos, owner of Tiffany’s Family Restaurant passes the gavel to the new board chair Connie Stewart of Suntrust Bank at the conclusion of the chamber’s awards banquet Oct. 5.
PALM HARBOR – Nearly his entire resume had been announced before Palm Harbor Fire Chief Jame Angle, standing near the podium at the Greater Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce awards banquet, realized that he had been named Palm Harbor Citizen of the Year.

Palm Harbor Fire Lt. Jason Haynes had just received his award for Firefighter of the Year, along with East Lake Fire Lt. Jason Gennero. But in his acceptance speech, he began to list the accomplishments of his chief.

Angle was the 2010 Florida Fire Chief of the Year, he said. He is the executive director of the Florida Association of Special Districts, the 2010 first-place winner of Palm Harbor’s Dancing with the Stars and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Palm Harbor Rotary Club in 2011. He serves as adjunct professor at St. Petersburg College’s Allstate Center, Palm Harbor Relay for Life committee operations chair, on the 2010 Pinellas County Charter Review Commission and as Santa Claus at a senior living facility.

“Oh, and one more thing to add to his list: he’s the 2012 Citizen of the Year,” Haynes said.

Angle said he was “shocked and pleasantly surprised” to receive the honor, explaining that he had come close to telling Haynes to sit down before he finished.

“Jason was almost to the end before I even caught on,” he said.

Citizen of the Year was the final of several awards given during the chamber’s 35th annual awards banquet, which honors not only businesses, but also the accomplishments of the community.

“This chamber means so much to Palm Harbor. We’re city hall. We’re community,” said outgoing board Chairman Paul Hittos, owner of Tiffany’s Family Restaurant. “It is, after all, all about business.”

Lifetime achievement

The chamber presented its first Lifetime Achievement Award this year, honoring longtime community volunteer Murray Smith.

“It was noted that, you know, there’s so many people that don’t get recognized, and yet they’re out there,” said Don Hurt of Your Claim to Fame, the sponsor for the award. “When you need something done, there’s that person (who) steps up and takes charge.”

Smith moved to Florida in 1977 after 33 years working for the Chrysler Corporation. He was a charter member of the local Kiwanis Club, a Boy Scouts adviser and a past president of the North Pinellas Historical Museum.

He was one of five integral players who helped raise funds to build the Palm Harbor Senior Center, now called The Centre of Palm Harbor, where the chamber dinner was held.

“Mr. Murray, I can’t begin to tell you how your encouragement and leadership in the community has meant over the years,” Hittos said.

Community awards

The chamber named a Korean veteran as its Distinguished Veteran of the Year, honoring Brian McParland.

McParland moved from Ireland to the United States in 1947, enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1950. He served nine months in Japan and came back wounded in 1952, an injury that limits his mobility and forces him to walk with a cane to this day.

“He’s typical of what went on years ago in this country,” said Bill Gallant of Bill’s Super Gas & Auto Center and sponsor of the award. “One of the things his wife told me, ‘You know what Brian’s always said? He’s happy to fulfill the American dream.’ ”

McParland said Korean War veterans “never got much recognition” and were mostly ignored when they came back home. He read a poem written by his company’s commander.

“I was wounded, and we lost 48 men,” he added, his voice cracking with emotion as he thanked the chamber again.

Along with the firefighters honored during the dinner, the chamber named two Deputies of the Year: Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Brian Diebold and James Piper.

The men were noted for their year-long investigation into Whitney Enterprises Health & Wellness, a pain management clinic that was eventually closed by the Department of Health for continuing violations. Diebold and Piper arrested more than 80 people for minor and serious drug violations during the investigation.

“These two deputies are a tremendous team that have worked to rid Palm Harbor of the scourge of these pill mills,” Hittos said. “We can’t begin to thank you enough.”

Honorary mayor

In what Hittos described as “the most honest election in the country,” the honorary mayor was decided by $1 votes raised for charity. Of the three candidates, Arlene Tracht of Patriot Bank was named the winner.

“Thank you all very much for this honor and for all of those that supported my campaign,” she said as she accepted the new role.

Half of the funds raised goes to the chamber’s foundation and half to a charity of the candidate’s choice. Tracht’s cause was the Jessica Dover Foundation, benefiting those with autism.

“They’re going to be thrilled to get this money to help those children,” she said.

Also competing were Ed McCasllister of Cadence Bank and Bob Pictor of Pictor Marketing Solutions.

The Ambassadors of the Year were given to Palm Harbor Postmaster Mike Jenkins and Shannon Shipley of Synovous Bank for their efforts to represent the chamber in the community.

“They’re out there promoting our chamber in a positive manner, with joy in their hearts, a smile on their face and business on their lips,” Hittos said.

Businesses of the year

Green Tech Termite and Pest Control was named Small Business of the Year. The locally owned and operated business at 1395 Belcher Road has seven employees and has been in operation since 1980, Hittos said.

Large Business of the Year went to the Palm Harbor Chick-fil-A, which often provides refreshments for chamber, library or community events, Hittos said.

“Recently, there was a little controversy involving this national company,” Hittos said. “But our community showed our support … by lining up from the window of the drive-through, all the way back to Nebraska (Avenue), I think it was.”

The Palm Harbor franchise, at 32800 U.S. 19, opened in 2003.
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