Steve Wilkerson was named Philadelphia and Neshoba County’s 2013 Citizen of the Year Monday night during the annual Community Development Partnership banquet.
Steve Wilkerson was named Philadelphia and Neshoba County’s 2013 Citizen of the Year Monday night during the annual Community Development Partnership banquet.
Steve Wilkerson was recognized for his business savvy, his dedication to the Community Development Partnership and his commitment to bettering his community Monday night when he was presented the Philadelphia and Neshoba County's Citizen of the Year award.

The presentation was made during the 60th annual banquet of the Community Development Partnership in the coliseum.

Also during the banquet, Neshoba County General Hospital and Magnolias & Sassafras were recognized as the large and small businesses of the year, respectively.

Stanley Salter was introduced as the incoming chairman of the CDP. The guest speaker was Skip Skaggs, director of Existing Industry and Business Division of the Mississippi Development Authority.

Wilkerson was presented as the 2013 Citizen of the Year by Salter, his longtime friend.

A Philadelphia native, Wilkerson accepted the award and proceeded to tell why he joined the CDP, what it meant to be a member and what to expect as a member.

He recalled the day he was told by Chamber Director Tim Moore that he been named Citizen of the Year.

"This award is not something you ever think about, 'Oh I deserve this,'" he said. "He [Tim] had to tell me again because I wasn't sure I heard him right the first time."

Wilkerson said that unlike last year's acceptance speech by Roberta Byars, who told about herself and her work in the community, he would approach it from a different angle.

"The CDP, Chamber and Main Street... people volunteering is the ingredient that makes these organizations work," he said, noting the work done by volunteers at the Depot, at Ham Jam, the horse show, the Christmas parade, Hometown Proud Day and with programs like Allies for Education and Leadership Neshoba.

"People ask: 'Why should I join; what's in it for me?'" he said. "My answer: 'Probably nothing if that is the reason you are joining.' You join and pay your dues then you get to give more."

Wilkerson quoted President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address where he said: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country."

"This is how we should view our community," he said.

Wilkerson told those gathered at the banquet about his liver transplant in 2007 at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.

"When I went, I knew I was carrying my faith, family and friends," he said.

"I had no idea I was taking this community with me. There were prayers, visits, calls, cards, etc., from this community in overwhelming numbers. One of the directors at the townhouse where we stayed for four weeks told Jenny Lynn and me that most days we received more mail than all the other patients put together."

While he has served his community for more than 30 years, Wilkerson said what his "community gave in return was many, many times over what I had given.

"It had nothing to do with me. Philadelphia and Neshoba County are full of gracious, loving people."

He closed by urging everyone to become an organ donor if they were not already one.

"Don't take your organs to heaven," he said. "Heaven knows we can use them here on earth."

CDP Chairman Jason York welcomed guests and recognized board members and special guests.

Dr. Wayne Hill gave the invocation.

The Neshoba Central JROTC presented colors. Angela Boatner sang the national anthem.

Entertainment was provided by the cast of "And the Winner Is."