Rotarians honor sheriff, Hawkins

By Vicki Hyatt | May 16, 2014
Rotary Club of Haywood County's president-elect Celessa Willett presents Sheriff Greg Christopher with the Citizen of the Year award.

At its 36th annual dinner and benefit event, the Rotary Club of Haywood County paid tribute to Sheriff Greg Christopher, who they named Citizen of the Year, and club member John Hawkins as Rotarian of the Year.

The two awards are the annual highlight (with perhaps the exception of the steady stream of jokes told by Dr. John Highsmith during the drawing) of the club's yearly celebration and fundraiser.

Club President Bill Upton recognized the three club members who have stuck with the club for more than three decades, Pat Stewart, Charles Henson and Tom Posey.

In recognizing Christopher, President-elect Celesa Willett spoke of his service in the National Guard, with a tour in Desert Storm, his 27 years of experience with the N.C. Highway Patrol, and his appointment as county sheriff just four days after retiring from the patrol.

"He has served his country at the national, state and county level," Willett said, and then quoted other law enforcement officers in the county who spoke of the new era of cooperation within the area thanks to Christopher's leadership.

"He's opened the jail to the ministers and churches, is working on a half-way house and cares about people who made poor choices at one point in their lives," she said.

Christopher said he was speechless, something that doesn't happen often.

"There's great people in law enforcement in this county," Christopher said, crediting changes made back to those he regularly works with.

Upton described Hawkins as a "behind the scenes" man in announcing the Rotary award.

"He's the one up to his elbows in dish water or driving a veteran to an appointment or working at hospice," Upton said, "and he exemplifies the Rotary motto of service above self."