Over the years, Delaware County has received numerous accolades for being a great place to live, and that fact isn’t lost on people like Joe Pemberton.
On Monday, Pemberton was named Citizen of the Year by the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce during its annual dinner and awards ceremony. While he said receiving such an award was a “humbling, humbling honor,” Pemberton simply wanted to talk about how great Delaware County is because of those who live and/or work in the community.
“Zach Price (Chamber Board of Directors chair-elect) and I were discussing the other day how being here in Delaware County is similar to winning the lottery, and we need to do our part. We’ve got to keep paying it forward,” Pemberton said during his acceptance speech. “We dream big dreams here in Delaware County, and they come true in this community.”
He added paying it forward is “the foundation of our community,” and something he witnesses daily in Delaware County.
“All of you set the standard,” Pemberton told those who filled the ballroom at the Hilton Columbus/Polaris for Monday’s Chamber celebration. “You pay it forward.”
In fact, as Pemberton looked out over the crowd, he noticed countless others deserving of the Citizen of the Year award.
“So many of you right here in this room, if we were taking a poll, could or have been recognized with this honor. You are the ones that I look to,” he said.
Role models galore
Currently vice president of community affairs for the Suburban Natural Gas Company in Lewis Center, Pemberton got his start with the company over a decade ago as public awareness program manager. After taking a brief hiatus from the company to explore the bright lights of Las Vegas, Pemberton returned to the company and Delaware County a few years back.
Thanks to some guidance from Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce President Holly Quaine, Pemberton ingrained himself in the Delaware County community and never looked back.
Upon his return to Ohio, Pemberton recalled the following memory: “Holly graciously sat me in between both (Delaware) Mayor (Carolyn Kay) Riggle and City Manager Tom Homan at the annual chamber dinner. Talk about providing the perfect, most ideal introduction to Delaware. That’s what Holly does. She brings people together.”
He added Riggle and Homan are two individuals who helped show him what it looks like to pay it forward.
“Like all of you (in attendance), they give back. Whether it’s Tom and his endless contributions to the Strand Theatre, Rotary, or chairing the Andrews House dinner — you name it. Mayor Riggle gives back to our veterans through Honor Flight and other initiatives.”
Pemberton went on to recognize others who make Delaware County a sought after place to live and do business in. These people, he said, include chamber board members, school superintendents, all three county commissioners, county officials like Engineer Chris Bauserman and Auditor George Kaitsa, Delaware City Attorney Darren Shulman, and county judges like David Hejmanowski, to whom he called “a true Renaissance Man.”
“There are so many dynamic and talented people here that make this phenomenal community what it is, and that’s recognized everywhere,” Pemberton said.
He also noted the importance of the quality of education offered throughout the county, and the impact downtown Delaware has on attracting residents and visitors to the area.
“We just have a number of fantastic school districts that bring everyone to Delaware County and to whom we should always be grateful,” he said. “This community can’t help but lift your spirits. Driving along downtown, you think all about Tracey Peyton (Strand Theatre managing director) and Susie Bibler (Main Street Delaware executive director), and what their entire teams do to make the Strand and Main Street (Delaware) what it has become.”
Pemberton gives back
Upon returning from Las Vegas, Pemberton was eager to get involved in the community, so he sought out guidance from Quaine, a longtime Rotarian.
“In addition to the Chamber, of course, I told him about Rotary. I told him that service clubs offer unlimited opportunities to forge relationships while serving in the community, and that if he cultivated them, he’d have friends for life,” Quaine said.
Well, Pemberton took Quaine’s comments to heart, dove right in, and hasn’t looked back.
He took on so many leadership roles within the Rotary Club of Delaware, including his current role as president, that Quaine dubbed him the “Rotary Butler.”
She added Pemberton is an endearing person who has a work ethic and drive to help out his community that is second to none, which makes him more than deserving of the title of “Citizen of the Year.”
“Joe’s enthusiasm, maybe from anybody else, would feel disingenuous, but from Joe, it’s so sincere it’s endearing,” Quaine said. “I have had the pleasure of volunteering at his side, and Joe will run circles around anybody and is absolutely indefatigable. He has one gear.
“I adore Joe and respect him as much as anybody I know,” she added. “I am grateful he returned to Ohio.”
Price, who introduced Pemberton on Monday, added this year’s Citizen of the Year recipient was a no-brainer.
“Very simply, (Pemberton) has earned this acknowledgment by his enthusiastic and effective stewardship of Delaware County in so many ways,” Price said. “Joe has a passion for service. Coupled with his enthusiasm, organizational skills, hard work, and genuine love of people, there is a drive to achieve results that sets him apart.”
Along with his Rotary duties, Price noted Pemberton devotes his free time to helping local organizations like People in Need, Inc. of Delaware County, and the Strand Theatre and Cultural Arts Association, while also participating in numerous service projects, including working the gates during the Delaware County Fair.
“Joe works three shifts (at the fair) to everyone else’s one, and he does it with a relentless enthusiasm, and apparently, literally without breaking a sweat. In a suit, as well.”
Before turning the podium over to Pemberton on Monday, Price noted Pemberton’s character is what sets him apart from others.
“Nobody dislikes Joe Pemberton,” he said. “Everybody appreciates his tireless, cheerful nature, his generosity, and his civic engagement. Those who know him are proud to call him colleague and friend.”
Joshua Keeran is the editor of The Delaware Gazette. He can be reached at 740-413-0900.