Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese earned the Citizen of the Year award, which was presented Feb. 27 at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala.
The Chamber presents a host of awards each year at the gala recognizing individuals and businesses that have made outstanding contributions to the community.
Reese is a lifelong resident of Catoosa. She attended West Side Elementary School, Lakeview Junior High, and graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. She was a teacher for four years, served as assistant principal for six years, and principal for 11 years before becoming Catoosa County Public Schools superintendent in 2005.
As superintendent, Reese has led her team of educators and administrators through disaster recovery efforts after 2011’s EF4 tornado destroyed Ringgold Middle and High Schools, as well as the ever-changing challenges of providing digital learning and meal distribution for Catoosa County students due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Reese said a quote by Rita Pierson shaped her life as an educator: “Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
“I’ve had the opportunity,” Reese said, “to be a champion for children in the classroom and as superintendent I’ve had the opportunity to inspire 1,800 employees to be champions for Catoosa’s children. It is a great honor that I am being considered as Catoosa County’s Citizen of the Year for doing what I love and was called to do in life.”
Her current community leadership positions include:
♦ Past chairperson of the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce
♦ Past president of Ringgold Rotary
♦ Chairperson of the Northwest Georgia Regional Education Service Agency
♦ Chairperson of the Catoosa Family Collaborative
♦ North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation board of directors member
♦ Communities in Schools board of directors member
♦ Partnership 2000 board of directors member
♦ Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce Executive Circle board member
♦ From HERE to CAREER Academy board of directors
Some of her many accomplishments include:
♦ Georgia School Superintendent Association President’s Award recipient
♦ Georgia School Superintendent Association coach and mentor
♦ Professional Association of Georgia Educators National Superintendent’s Network
♦ Georgia Head Start Association Superintendent Award recipient
♦ Georgia Music Educators Association Administrative Leadership Award recipient
♦ Technical College System of Georgia College and Career Academy Grant recipient ($3,000,000 for Catoosa County)
♦ Kiwanis Club of Fort Oglethorpe Distinguished Service Award recipient
Lifetime Achievement: Doris White
This award, given to Doris White, recognizes contributions made by an individual during his/her career that have made a significant impact on the community.
White was salutatorian of her high school class, was voted Most Likely to Succeed, and was “Miss Fyffe Alabama 1950” in her school’s beauty pageant. She has been a North Georgia resident since 1951 and has served in both Catoosa and Walker counties throughout her professional career.
Working at both Peerless Woolen Mills and Quilted Textiles Corporation, before beginning a banking career, White rose to assistant vice president at Rossville Federal Savings and Loan and vice president at Bankers First Bank during her 27 years of service.
In 1989, she was appointed by Georgia Governor Joe Frank Harris to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs board and served two terms.
White is a member of the Catoosa County Chamber, Walker County Chamber, and Kiwanis of Fort Oglethorpe. She serves on the board of Rossville Public Library, executive committee and board of Georgia Northwestern Technical College Foundation, and the Blood Assurance North Georgia advisory board. She has served in many capacities on various civic and community organizations throughout her career.
Most recently, White was the community and public relations representative for Catoosa and Walker counties for Blood Assurance. As she retired after 22 years of service this past May, Blood Assurance recognized her by naming the donor room of the Fort Oglethorpe Blood Assurance location in her honor. The inscription on the plaque reads: “This donor room is dedicated in honor of Doris W. White, who through her 22 years of service has saved thousands of lives in our community. Her dedication to the patients and hospitals in our area will never be forgotten.”
Business Person Hall of Fame: Jim Cutler
This award, presented to Jim Cutler, is given to a person who has performed service above and beyond that which would be expected of a citizen. This service is exemplified as community service at-large. Service can include individual, patriotic, organizational and/or business accomplishments and community activities that have resulted in a better community for all.
Employed by Hullco, Cutler is a public servant who looks for opportunities to promote and serve his community both personally and as an elected official where he has served for the past 12 years as Catoosa County’s District 3 commissioner.
Some of the local organizations where Cutler volunteers his time and efforts in community leadership roles include past president and current member of the Kiwanis Club of Ringgold and senior vice commander of American Legion Post 40-Ringgold.
Cutler continues to find ways to serve Catoosa County, as he currently serves on the county’s Economic Development Authority board.
The Celebrate Catoosa Gala was held at The Colonnade. Attendees enjoyed a meal prepared by Belaire Catering. The evening, planned by the Chamber Gala Committee, included the annual award presentations, a live auction, and Business Bingo. The gala was sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Steven M. Henry Construction, and Hamilton Health Care System. The beverage sponsor was Gateway Business Center. The Bingo sponsor was FirstBank.