BOTKINS — A man who has dedicated his life to his family and the community he grew up in was named the Zenith Award winner Tuesday night by the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Milligan was taken by surprise when it was announced that he was the 2019 recipient of the Zenith Award, the highest award given by the local chamber of commerce.
As he took the stage, he began laughing and saying “the gang’s all here” as his mom, Carol Milligan, sister, Sarah Milligan-Taffler, daughter, Mandy Milligan-Rafferty and her husband, Sean Rafferty, and son, Calvin Milligan, entered the Palazzo and joined his wife, Mardie Milligan, who was seated at their table.
“When I speak in public, I’m prepared,” said Milligan. “I got absolutely nothing tonight.When Devon (Beer_ stepped up to the podium, I thought it would be Phil Gilardi being honored. You know he’s ‘Ringing the Bell.’” I like to ring the bell too.
“I’d like to give a shout out to my wife, Mardie. And to my mother, Carol, who’s celebrating a milestone birthday Friday. I thought all these people (family) were coming in Friday,” he said.
After the ceremony, Milligan said when Beer started talking about his service to Edison Community State College, he knew he was the Zenith Award winner.
“Mardie kept a really big secret,” he said. “She did a better job than I would have done.”
Milligan said the award is a symbol of how the citizens of Sidney and Shelby County have come together to make the community and county better.
“Phil started us out on the right track,” said Milligan. “There’s a unified effort of all of us joining together for the community for its progress and prosperity.”
Mardie Milligan said she is honored by the recognition given to her husband. And it wasn’t easy getting him to the annual banquet.
“He has a class at Edison on Tuesday nights,” said Mardie. “I told him I had tickets and he said he didn’t think he could go because of his class. So I called Dr. Doreen Larson (Edison president) and told her and asked her to tell Tom he had to go and sit at the Edison table.
“Doreen called him and he came home and told me he was coming with me to the banquet,” she said.
She said she’s proud to live in a community “where there’s a lot of people who give so much. This award is humbling.”
Milligan is the second person in his family to receive the award. His dad was also a recipient of the award.
“I’m honored he received the award. His father would be very honored that he received this award too,” said Carol Milligan. “I know he’d be very pleased.”
In preparing to announce the winner, Devon Beer, Freshway Foods CEO and president, teased the audience with tidbits about the winner.
“It’s not often that you can get this much influence in one room at one time, so I appreciate being able to take advantage of it,” said Beer. “Dawn (Eilert) had reached out to me to discuss with you the efforts that are underway to organize the private dollars and investors that are interested in accelerating the efforts to make our city and county more attractive for today and generations to follow. The basic building blocks are all in place. We have a great Y, a great hospital, great schools and a great business community. What better time, than on the 75th anniversary of our Chamber to talk about taking things to the next level.
“For starters, downtown revitalization is getting a lot of attention and experiencing a lot of momentum these days. As a community, we have been talking about transforming the downtown for 20 years now. There have been many fits and starts and some good progress along the way, but not to the magnitude we have all imagined. It’s exciting to see the theater renovation almost complete and already in use,” said Beer “New eating and drinking establishments are gaining a foothold. And others are soon to open. However, there is a lot more to do. As a community, we want to go much bigger than that right! We must go bigger than that. The time has never been better. We have a group of motivated and innovative investors ready to move things along. There is talk of an amphitheater, downtown apartments or lofts, additional shopping and entertainment options. Something for the YP Connectors that Jeff (Raible) talked about earlier to connect to!! To bring them back and/or keep them in the area.
“But today, these efforts are fragmented. So, we are working to pool these efforts, build consensus on direction and move at an accelerated pace. Instead of operating in separate camps, we want to move on in a united front, with a more comprehensive plan. So, we have the treasure, we have the talent, and we have the desire, but we need the right person to spearhead this effort. Someone that has had experience doing this kind of thing,” said Beer. “Someone who has a history of making everything they touch quite a bit better than it was before. Now, this person does not need to be superhero. We do, however, have a short, focused list of recommended qualifications our ideal candidate should process. We want this person to have:”
• Been a member of the Sidney Shelby County Chamber of Commerce
• Served on the United Way Board
• Been a board member of Wilson Health and the Wilson Memorial Foundation
• Been a Member of Sidney Rotary and served as an International Exchange host
• Been a Sidney-Shelby County Economic Partnership Trustee
• Served as a Salvation Army Endowment Fund chair
• Served as a Shelby County Building Association Board member
• Been vice chair of the Community Improvement Corporation of Sidney.
• Been a former president and founding member of Shelby County Habitat for Humanity.
• Been a volunteer for Shelby County Health Department and the Shelby County courts.
• We are looking for someone who has been a founding board member of Raise the Roof.
• Been a former chair of the Sidney City Schools Hall of Honor.
• Been Inducted as a member of the Sidney City Schools Hall of Honor.
“Now, the criteria gets a little more focused and challenging,” Beer continued.
• Must be a Presbyterian Church Elder and founder and chair of the Hispanic Ministry Committee
• You will need to have founded a Spanish speaking church service for the local Hispanic population.
• Started the Hispanic Ministry in the country of Columbia through the US Latin American Council of Churches
• You had to be a Columbia Mission Network Steering Committee member for the Presbyterian Church of USA.
• And most certainly chair of the Miami County Presbytery Global Mission Committee.
• And been inducted into the Executive Order of Ohio Commodores.
“Remember, we want a leader that will build a foundation not just of sand and gravel, but of rock and stone. And we accomplished the task,” said Beeer. “Ladies and gentlemen, our 2019 Sidney Shelby County Zenith Award winner has not only given a substantial piece of their time, talent and fortune back to our community, but this person is a wonderful family man and a great friend to us all – Mr. Tom Milligan.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.