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    CHAMBER CHAIRMAN'S AWARD WINNERS SHARE MILITARY EXPERIENCE

    City official Ron Sams was told to be at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting at 5:30 p.m. There was almost nobody there besides Chamber staff.

    Sams, director of city investigations for the City of Montgomery, said he “had no idea why” he was there. He said that Leslie Sanders, the Chamber’s 2014 chairman of the Board of Directors, invited him to the Annual Meeting at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center. “I thought, well, I had never been to one.”

    He ended up sitting behind Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. Sams even told his wife: “I was not sure why we’re here.” He did notice all the community leaders, business leaders and elected leaders at the event. He was there because he would receive the Chairman’s Award from Leslie Sanders.

    Col. Trent Edwards, who last year was commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing – which includes Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex – and who is now the commander of the 37th Training Wing in San Antonio, also received the 2014 Chamber Chairman’s Award. He was unable to attend the Annual Meeting.

    In an email, Edwards wrote that his initial reaction to being a Chairman’s Award recipient was smiling. “I literally just smiled and felt humbled and proud to have even been considered.”

    Sams said he was “speechless. I did not expect this at all,” he said. The Chairman’s Award states: “In recognition of your willingness to serve, assist and offer your time, talents and visions which have helped to provide positive, progressive growth for our communities.”

    “I’m really honored and I’m really humbled that she gave me that award,” Sams said. “It was a pleasure to serve and I enjoy what I’m doing. The people at the Chamber are really incredible people. They want very much to see Montgomery grow in the right way, and being able to help out, to me, is what it’s all about. It’s all about service.”

    Edwards wrote, “The Chairman's Award means that all the hard work between my 42nd Air Base Wing team and the City of Montgomery paid off. I was simply able to articulate a vision for Maxwell's partnership with the City of Montgomery and the River Region area, but it was the people I worked with that turned the vision into reality. I am grateful and thankful to the men and women in the 42nd Air Base Wing – I am just as proud of them as I am to receive the award. I accept the award on their behalf.”

    Sams said that the Chairman’s Award recognized Edwards and himself, “but it’s a lot of other people that do a lot of hard work all the time. They deserve a lot of the credit for the stuff that goes on.”

    At the Annual Meeting, Sanders said that both Sams and Edwards helped her have a much better and deeper understanding of the military. “She (Sanders) knows a lot more about the military than she says,” Sams said. “She is a mover and shaker here. She knows all the right people to talk to. She has connections with everybody. She wants desperately to do the right thing when she sees a project that she knows should be done. It’s a pleasure to work for her because she just goes for it.”

    Sams has the military connections with his nearly 37-year career with the Air Force that ended in August 2009 when he retired as a three-star general. He also has connections with Maxwell and Gunter Annex as the city’s liaison with the military. He was appointed to the Job Creation and Military Stability Commission and is also a member of the Military Stability Foundation, which raises funds to strengthen military facilities across the state and protect them against a future Base Realignment and Closure. The goal is enhancing the military value of the facilities, Sams said.

    “She (Sanders) would want to know who do we talk to; where do we go; how do we do this; how do we do that – that’s kind of my role,” Sams said. “We work together and navigate things and it isn’t just me. There are other people on the commission that help out a lot.”

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