Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser speaks at Bastrop-Morehouse Chamber of Commerce annual banquet

The Bastrop-Morehouse Chamber of Commerce held it's annual banquet, which this year was a salute to Chemin-A-Haut State Park on Thursday evening at the Municipal Center in Bastrop. The guest speaker for the event was Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, who as Lieutenant Governor is over the Louisiana state park system.

Nungesser spoke about the many areas of responsibility that his office has within the state government. The Lieutenant Governor serves as the head of the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism for the state and has responsibilities that include overseeing State Parks tourism, the state library, cultural development, and the state museum.

One initiative that Nungesser spoke about was the "Bayou Krewe - #OnlyLouisiana" campaign. Nungesser said that the state is seeking ambassadors who are passionate about Louisiana and are active on social media to help show the world why they should come visit Louisiana. Nungesser encouraged those present to become a member of the Bayou Krewe and share their passion for Louisiana's food, history, culture and great outdoors. The campaign's aim is to encourage people to "come and see it, taste it, experience it; snap your view of Louisiana and spread the joie de vivre with the hashtag #OnlyLouisiana." People can sign up at get official program details and take part in monthly challenges for a chance to win #OnlyLouisiana prizes. at

After dinner, Dorothy Ford, Executive Director of the Chamber opened the program with the presentation of several door prizes and announcing the winners of a silent auction. Robin Simmons, Special Advisor to the Chamber, then began the presentation of the Chamber's Annual Community Awards. Those awards were:

J.D. Kelly Memorial Award - Jack Scoggins was honored with the J.D. Kelly Memorial Award. The Chamber's highest award is given in honor of the late J.D. Kelley who had a tremendous love and respect for the Chamber. This award is given to a Chamber member who goes above and beyond to help not only the Chamber but the community as well.

Educator of the year for Prairie View Academy - Rhonda Densmore, an educator for 38 years, most of it teaching kindergarten and first grade, was the 2017 honoree as Educator of the year for Prairie View Academy. Gladney retired from West Carroll Parish in 2012 and came to PVA where she is a first-grade teacher. PVA Principal Perry Kelly said that Gladney, "does an awesome job laying the foundation for her student's future success in school and life."

Outstanding Teacher for Morehouse Parish Schools - Sonya Blondin, a 15 year veteran of the Morehouse Parish School system was named the 2016 Outstanding Teacher for Morehouse Parish Schools. An honors and algebra math teacher at Morehouse Magnet school, Blondin is also a Beta sponsor, working with both students and parents to help better serve the community. Morehouse Parish Schools Superintendent Hazel Sellers said of Blondin, "Students respect and have a special relationship with the honoree because they trust her to prepare them for the next level."

Outstanding Fireman for the Bastrop Fire Department - Captain Terry Pierre Lee was named the 2016 Outstanding Fireman for the Bastrop Fire Department. Lee, a 1980 Bastrop High School graduate, has worked for the Bastrop Fire Department for the last 26 years. Interim Bastrop Fire Chief Thomas Crowder said that Lee "has exemplified the type of firefighter any department would want to have on their staff."

Outstanding Deputy for the Morehouse Parish Sheriff's Office - Sergeant Shavohe Smith is the 2016 honoree as Outstanding Deputy for the Morehouse Parish Sheriff's Office. A member of the Sheriff's Office Patrol Division, Lee is according to tho Sheriff Mike Tubbs, "A dependable and dedicated officer who takes his duty seriously and performs at a high level each time he puts on the uniform."

Outstanding Police Officer for the Bastrop Police Department - Sergeant Jeffrey Gathings was named the 2016 Outstanding Police Officer for the Bastrop Police Department. Gathings serves as a Sergeant in the Police Department's Patrol Division, after being promoted to Sergeant in august of 2016. Chief Allen Campbell said that Gathings was a "remarkable young man and police officer, who was very deserving of this award."

Chamber Board Member of the Year - Angela Gladney was honored as the Bastrop-Morehouse Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Outgoing President - Brandon Culp was honored as the Outgoing President of the Bastrop-Morehouse Chamber of Commerce.

The sponsors for this year’s banquet were the City of Bastrop, Kraftman Federal Credit Union, Northeast Tel, Origin Bank, Rick Duplissey, CPA and Simmons Sporting Goods.