Johnson honored with Chamber Lifetime Achievement
The Cameron Chamber of Commerce recognized outstanding members and businesses and all in attendance learned how to turn no into yes during its 86th annual Banquet on Tuesday night at the Williams Events Center.
A packed house heard from keynote speaker Sarah O’Brien about how to make Cameron and Milam County a better place to live by having a positive we can do it attitude and turning no into yes.
President-elect Lyndi Sanders told her story of how she came to Cameron before bringing O’Brien up to speak.
“She gave me a task to tell my story on why I said yes to Cameron,” Sanders said. “I have family here. My dad’s family has been here for generations. I grew up in Groesbeck and Waco.”
Sanders said that while I was at A&M she met a tall, skinny cowboy. She settled here in Cameron and married her husband Clint and then started working at Royal Seating here in Cameron and while finishing up her masters.
“I was then offered a job in Waco,” she said. “While we lived in Waco we spent most of our weekends coming back here to Cameron. This is what felt like home to us, we loved the rural community. We loved that this town still felt like a good old-fashioned small town. It was also right in the middle of both of our parents.”
“Every day we choose to stay in Cameron for a lot of reasons,” Sanders said. “Our kids love it here, and we love it here. Every day that I get to walk down around the downtown square I appreciate that I am here, and I hope you do, too. We have to all think about why we said yes to Cameron and why we continue to say yes to Cameron.”
O’Brien spoke about mindsets and how to turn no’s into yes’s.
“I believe that community development is in peril,” she said. “The need to collaborate has never been stronger. It is a scary time to work in city planning. These are challenging times for everyone. I believe that we all have the power to change that.”
She said that peril doesn’t happen overnight and it isn’t anyone’s fault.
She then spoke about two different mindsets – scarcity and abundance.
Abundance thinking comes from a place of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is a paradigm that is grounded in the belief that ‘there is more than enough’ for everyone. Alternatively, a scarcity mindset is the belief that there will never be enough, resulting in feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety.
She said that in order to turn no into yes you must change your mindset and that Cameron has already taken those first steps to doing that with all that is going on in the community.
“Over the last year the Cameron Chamber along with the city and EDC has realized that collaboration is the key to success,” Chamber Director Melanie Reed said. “We talk about Cameron in our meetings. Its authenticity, the quality of life we have here - our schools, housing, the workforce, and so much more. We want a thriving town and county. The downtown is the heart of your city. If the heart of your city is healthy then your town is healthy.”
Reed spoke of the renovation of the 44 Farms building in downtown and the newly opened Central Avenue Bistro and its history and how that is leading the way to revitalize the downtown area.
The Chamber also took time to honor several community members, groups and businesses during the banquet.
The top award of the night – The Lifetime Achievement Award – was given to John Johnson for his work with the Old Town Cameron replica of 1940s Cameron that is housed in the Milam County Train Museum downtown.
The award isn’t given out every year and honors someone who has dedicated some aspect of their life to Cameron because of their work, leadership and love of Cameron.
“He grew up in Cameron where the downtown was a place of bustling activity,” Reed said. “As a young boy he visited the downtown area and on many occasions sat and watched the trains on the side of the road with his father. Mr. John Johnson has dedicated the last 40 years of his life to creating a 1940s replica of downtown Cameron.”
Reed said that when you visit the replica you see the work of 83-year-old Johnson who donated his work to the downtown Train Museum.
“For Mr. Johnson this is more than a hobby,” Reed said. “Each hand-painted figure, delicately-crafted building and train car is a piece of the love story between him and his wife Frances. He will tell you she played a big part in it. She was my right-hand man. This has been a life’s work full of passion, history, memories and lovely expression of the big heart for Cameron and its people.”
Johnson grew up in Cameron, but spent most of his adult life in Austin. He couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t love trains. Johnson has been interviewed by several different television stations and by Shane McAuliffe of The Texas Bucket List just last week.
“I started with trains when I was that high holding his hand a foot above the ground,” Reed said. “I built the first depot and then I figured I have to have some place to go when they get off the train, so for some reason he started building Cameron.”
Jamie Larson with the Milam County Train Museum said that Johnson was gifted with being able to remember what Cameron used to look like.
Over 3,000 people have visited the replica each of the last two years and over 200 have visited since January.
“We salute you Mr. Johnson,” Reed said. “And are proud of what you have given back to us. You are our hometown hero and we are glad you said yes and returned to Cameron with your spirit and your love.”
“It’s a love that never died in my heart,” Johnson said. “I lived here during the sad time that World War II was going on. I walked down the streets of Cameron and knew almost every person in town. God’s been good to me and I want to thank you all tonight.”
Gary Karber was honored as Volunteer of the Year for his time spent volunteering all over town to help out.
Chamber President Mark Stroud said about Karber: “This person moved to Cameron to be closer to his grandchildren and spends his time volunteering all over town with Vacation Bible School, Cameron Ben Milam PTO, the Texas AgriLife Extension Office and much more. He also volunteers for several 4-H events. He helps to set up for the Chamber Christmas Parade and so much more. He is the go-to person for anything that needs to be done at the Chamber office.”
The Outstanding Chamber Award went to Pat Foster.
“That person always seems to say what do you need me to do and put my business down as a sponsor for that,” Stroud said. “For years this person has said to me, this community, and her work, those words on many occasions. She is a strong dependable woman and is famous for telling people, ‘I’ll tell you what I think.’ That is the honesty and integrity we are looking for and she is all of that.”
The Cameron Lions Club was honored as Organization of the Year.
The Cameron Lions Club was chartered in 1932. Their current local projects include vision screening of local children, Thanksgiving food drive, diabetes awareness projects, eye glass collection and buying glasses for Cameron ISD students. They support the community through their annual Lions Club Radio Auction. They have supported several projects building playground equipment at parks in the community and helping with additions to the Cameron Airport Ballpark.
Business of the Year went to Mike and Janice Marek with Main Printing.
“This business has been active in the community for over 50 years,” Stroud said. “They started off in a one-car garage. This locally-owned family-run business has supported the community for many years from their love of sports, their love of music and the community. Who do you call when you need something yesterday, today or in an hour. Main Printing who will come in on the weekend to print just one more sponsor sign. We are proud to have them as a business still operating in our downtown area.”
Chamber Excellence Awards went to Milam County Touch of Love, the Milam County Historical Commission, and Craig Arnold and his Streets Department with the City of Cameron.
Rebecca Kostroun, senior at Yoe High, was named the Youth Leadership Award winner for this year. She has served on the YHS National Honor Society and has been drum major with the award-winning Yoe High Band for the last two years along with other honors.
The Citizen of the Year was Bobby Schiller.
“This year’s recipient was born and raised in Cameron and then left to go to college,” Stroud said. “He and his wife came back to work in the family business. He obtained his degree in pharmacology and came back to work. He has served many years on the Cameron Economic Development Board and his currently a City Council member and Mayor Pro-Tem. He was instrumental in the creation of the Milam Community Theater and has performed in plays for the last 20 years or more.”