Runnels Award to be presented at Petal Chamber banquet


Every year since 1994, the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce has awarded one area resident with the Bobby Runnels Leadership Award, given to an individual who personifies the best qualities of the Friendly City.

The 25th Bobby Runnels Award, along with the Police Officer of the Year and Firefighter of Year awards, will be given at the Chamber’s 2018 Annual Banquet, scheduled from 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 24 at Petal Civic Center, 712A South Main St. in Petal. This year’s event, which is sponsored by Mississippi Power, will be held to celebrate the achievements of the past year.

“We always look forward to this event,” chamber director Valerie Wilson said. “We decided several years ago to celebrate the chamber’s end-of-the-year (accomplishments), but we didn’t want it to be dry like so many events where you simply name off your board of directors, and who’s your new board of directors and what we did all year.

“Those kinds of things get very tedious and are not very much fun, so we give out our awards, and we have a great speaker who entertains us. We leave there glad we were there because it was fun and we enjoyed ourselves. This is actually our biggest event of the year.”

The Bobby Runnels Leadership Award is given to someone who serves the community through church, family, school, civic clubs or the chamber, and the name of the recipient is kept a secret until event time. The award is named for Bobby Runnels, who served on Petal’s first elected board of aldermen and as mayor pro tem while then-mayor Jack Gay served in Desert Storm.

In addition to that award, chamber officials also will name DeReginald Keon Williamson as Police Officer of the Year and Chris Shows as Firefighter of the Year.

Entertainment will be provided by comedian Marty Simpson, who was the first South Carolinian to be named a USA Today All-American football player. In 2012, Simpson was the winner of the Clean Comedy Challenge, and has opened for Dennis Miller, Tim Hawkins, Pauly Shore and Last Comic Standing winners Jon Reep and John Heffron.

Petal High School Ambassadors and Miss Hospitality also will be on hand to greet guests.

Buffet lines will open at 6 p.m., followed by presentations of the award and entertainment. Tickets are $35 per person or $300 for a table of eight and can be purchased at

“We should have a full house,” Wilson said. “We usually have about 200 guests, so we expect to have that again this year.”