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Chamber celebrates successful year
School leader receives highest service award

A Forsyth County Schools leader was recognized for her lifelong commitment to the community Friday night during the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner Celebration.

Judi Smith Jenkins, a lifelong resident of the Silver City community in north Forsyth, was presented the 2013 Charles F. Welch Citizenship Award before a crowd of about 500 people.

Jenkins, who has served as the school system’s business and community relations facilitator since 2007, was presented the award by her colleague and friend, Candy Norton, the district’s director of human resources.

The Welch award is recognized by many as the highest honor a Forsyth County resident can receive since it is presented to someone who has dedicated the majority of his or her life to serving the county.

It is given in memory of Welch, a former Cumming city councilman and county commissioner.

Besides her time in her current role with the school district, Jenkins spent 11 years as a teacher and also worked many years as a real estate agent.

She was a charter class member of Leadership Forsyth, as well as the Sawnee Woman’s Club. She is currently a member of the Lanier-Forsyth Rotary Club and a board member for Keep Forsyth County Beautiful. Norton called Jenkins “a dynamic, wonderful and caring person whose energy is contagious.”

“Shy, quiet, reserved, pensive, demure, cautionary, Judi is not,” Norton said. “Feisty, vivacious, warm, friendly, a fireball she is. She meets no stranger … Judi has a big heart.”

She went on to commend her work ethic and dedication to those around her.

“Nothing is too much for you … when everyone else is planning and discussing, you do and get things done,” Norton said. “Your spirit of fun and enthusiasm for the task at hand will remain with everyone privileged to have known you and to have worked with you.”

Jenkins said she was completely surprised to receive the award.

“I’m really speechless,” she said. “And anyone who knows me, knows that that doesn’t happen very often.

“I’m very overwhelmed and very, very humbled, especially since I know the people who received it before me and I certainly feel very undeserving.”

Also during the meeting, the chamber’s outgoing board chairwoman Linda Cole handed the reins of leadership off to incoming chairwoman Ann-Margaret Johnston.

Cole said when she took the position last year, she believed 2013 would be “the year of possibilities.”

“Well, I’ve totally changed my mind,” she said. “It is the year of realization because we have had a phenomenal year in Cumming and Forsyth County this year.”

Among the accolades that Cole pointed out was being named the No. 1 healthiest county in Georgia and the seventh fastest-growing county in the nation by Forbes Magazine.

“We have been in the top 10 fastest-growing counties for the last 10 years,” she said. “Now, I think that’s a phenomenal accomplishment. We have made it through the recession still growing.”

Cole also noted that when she put her presentation together last week, the county had seen $35 million in capital investments from current or new businesses since the start of the year.

“Today I found out this number has moved to $44 million and we still have two and a half months to go,” Cole said. “That has equated to over 500 new jobs in our community.”

Incoming chairwoman Johnston said she plans to make her term of service a memorable one.

“Being asked to be chairman of the chamber board was not only an honor, but more than anything it was a shock,” she joked. “And for those of you who know me, I’m sure you’re a little bit shocked yourself.”

Johnston said she plans to focus on relationships during her tenure.

“Even though we’re a big, growing county, we still have that small county feel where we really do know each other,” she said. “And I think for the most part, we really do like each other.

“My challenge for you is I want you to get to know as many new people in the next year as you can. Form new relationships, take someone to lunch, go out for drinks after work … people are really interesting and you can learn a lot.”