The best in business, chamber toasts members

Published 12:31 am Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mitch St. Clair (second from left), past chairman of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, passes the torch to current Chairman Ed Hamrick (third from left) at the 109th-annual Membership Banquet at the Washington Yacht & Country Club Thursday night. Pictured with St. Clair and Hamrick are their spouses Remanda St. Clair (left) and Diane Hamrick. (Submitted Photo/Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce)

It was business as usual Thursday night at the Washington Yacht & Country Club as the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce took time to honor its finest at the 109th-annual Membership Banquet.

For her efforts as CEO of Beaufort Regional Health System from July 2010 until its takeover by then-University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina in September 2011, Susan Gerard was recognized as 2012 Community Leader of the Year.

Gerard currently serves as senior director of growth and clinical services for Vidant Beaufort Hospital.

In presenting Gerard with her plaque, Tom Atkins of The Rich Company quoted from the nomination form that was submitted on Gerard’s behalf.

“After the current president of the hospital resigned, Susan took command of it at a very critical time for the healthcare system.

“The hospital at the time was financially struggling and there were lots of folks who did not think they could keep from declaring bankruptcy before a merger could take place. She stepped up to the plate, brought competent people on board to help her, and she kept the doors open and healthcare available to our community. She is to be recognized for her many sleepless nights, her determination to make it work, her cool-under-pressure personality, and her leadership at a critical time.”

As she is prone to do, Gerard was humbled by the honor.

“(I was) totally surprised and very appreciative,” Gerard told the Daily News. “I had no idea and didn’t expect any type of recognition. Something that I thought was going to be four months turned out to be 14. It was a little longer than what we thought.”

Gerard also offered a positive perspective about the new management of the hospital.

“It’s very positive and it’s going very well,” Gerard said. “I am enjoying working with (Vidant Beaufort Hospital president) Harvey (Case) and the team at Vidant. We have a lot of change and it’s all good and I’m very happy about the outcome.”

Gerard credits her family, friends and co-workers for their support during the transition.

“It was a very difficult year and my mantra was everyday is a new challenge and a new opportunity,” Gerard said. “The employees heard me say this over and over again. I am thankful for my family and friends and it has been a positive experience.”

Others honored at Thursday’s banquet include:

  • Alma Friedman, who accumulated 3,200 points as a chamber ambassador, was named 2012 Ambassador of the Year.
  • The Washington Noon Rotary was recognized as 2012 Nonprofit of the Year.
  • Charlie Rasmussen, president of P&G Manufacturing, was recipient of the 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year award.
  • Austin Thomas and Fitness Unlimited took home the 2012 Small Business of the Year award.
  • Flanders Corporation was honored as 2012 Business of the Year.