She sees the best and inspires the best in others.

For Jana Russell, second-in-command to Amanda Nobles at Kilgore Economic Development Corporation, that’s one of the hallmarks of working for Kilgore’s 2019 Citizen of the Year.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award,” Russell said in an introduction video for the honoree Monday evening during Kilgore Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Star Gala in the Devall Student Center Ballroom.

The night also included a new Community Impact Award for Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin, whose focus in recent days was on conspiring with the chamber to keep Nobles’ award secret. She, in turn, was colluding with the chamber to keep Spradlin’s award under wraps until the Oct. 14 reveal.

Nobles helped establish Kilgore’s first Main Street Program, Spradlin said, and was a co-founder of Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation as well as KEDC, ultimately becoming its first executive director – a position in which she works diligently, three decades later, to fuel growth here.

With the one-time French teacher at the helm, “It brought Kilgore out of the ashes of the crash of the mid-80s,” Spradlin said. “I’m very proud to be a friend of Amanda Nobles and we’re very proud to name her Kilgore Citizen of the Year.”

Other awards presented during the chamber’s 2019 Star Gala Monday in the Devall Student Center celebrated 4 Star Cinema as Small Business of the Year, East Texas Salt Water Disposal Company as Large Business of the Year and Educator of the Year Mike Northcutt.

In a new award, the chamber drew more than 700 votes for People’s Choice Business of the Year. Amy Mims Bruyere’s In-Step Dance Co. earned the inaugural honor.

Focused on the surprise for Spradlin, Nobles was floored when Citizen of the Year was announced.

“Thank you so much. I love this community,” Nobles said. “It took me in at a time in my life when I really needed a community that would step up and support me and that would allow me to build something for not only the businesses but individuals.”

She exemplifies experience, leadership and trust, KEDC Board President Bryan Johnston said.

“Nobody is more experienced than Amanda. For 30-plus years she’s been leading our EDC and the results in our town show it. Amanda does a great job surrounding herself with a qualified team. She leads that team and it’s an effective team,” he added. “She builds relationships on trust. It’s very easy to see, very quickly, that Amanda is a very trustworthy person.

“All three of those things make Amanda who she is, make her the successful business person that she is, and we’re very proud of her and her efforts leading our EDC.”

Standing alongside Kilgore Chamber President Jill McCartney, Nobles’ voice was full of emotion as she spoke of her community and her work on behalf of its economy.

“I just grew a passion for it. It’s an amazing community to work with,” she said. “When you walk inside any business that has grown or any business that has located here and you see the people in that business working, it makes it worth it.

“It’s an amazing town, and you are all very special people. Thank you.”

Much of the introductory video for Spradlin’s award was spent listing all the organizations he supports and contributes time to, from his 15 years on the city council dais to his past presidency of the chamber and service with KHPF, KEDC, Boys & Girls Club, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Hearts Anonymous and more.

“I think of him in terms of his generosity,” said former Kilgore News Herald Publisher Bill Woodall, a longtime member of the BGC board. “We would not have a Boys & Girls Club here in Kilgore if it weren’t for Ronnie. It was Ronnie’s vision, it was his energy, it was his dedication that made it happen … Time, money, energy, enthusiasm – Ronnie contributes all of it.”

Owner and operator of East Texas Lumber, Spradlin gives generously – whether to Kilgore College scholarships, through projects like the Lazy Splash Ranch or to numerous organizations. Those gifts often come to mind, Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck allowed.

“Even more telling of who he is – as a leader, as a man, as our mayor – is his time,” Selleck said. “It’s incredible what he does with his energy and his time. Never for a selfish reason. It’s always been for Kilgore because he loves Kilgore more than anything else in the world.

“Just an incredible man that it is my honor to know and work with.”

He has been a marvelous mayor, Nobles added, in addition to all his other ways of serving.

“We couldn’t ask for a leader who is better, more dedicated, has his heart involved in everything that he does,” she said. “He is such a champion for Kilgore, and he could not be a better friend.”

Fooled, good-naturedly, by the chamber’s ploy with Nobles, Spradlin said he was grateful.

“I just can’t think of a more wonderful place to call home than Kilgore. It is just such a positive, upbeat, progressive, wonderful place to raise your family and grow up in. This means so much to me, thank you so much.”

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