William Gaston Awards 2008

The 2008 recipients include:

Robert Blalock

Being a successful businessman has never been enough for Robert Blalock, owner of Precision Machine. For him, giving back to the community where he makes his living has always been a priority.

Being described as a great leader and a "go-to" person, it's not surprising that Mr. Blalock finds himself in leadership roles. He currently serves as Council President of the Piedmont Council of the Boy Scouts of America and is Chair of the Caromont Board of Directors. He has served on the Caromont Board for the past 10 years with his current term expiring in 2010.

During his tenure on the Caromont Board of Directors, Mr. Blalock has seen tremendous changes at the Hospital including the construction of the Birthplace, but perhaps most important is the Board's continuing effort to provide the community with state-of-the-art health care.

Wayne Shovelin, Caromont's President and CEO said he had "personally benefited from Mr. Blalock's leadership skills and professional insights in defining community and service;" and he calls Mr. Blalock a valued friend.

When asked what made Mr. Blalock so special, one person answered simply "he's always there."

Mr. Blalock is a survivor in an ever-changing business climate who is willing to share his expertise for the benefit of the community and tonight we acknowledge all the years and hours he has devoted to making Gaston County a better place to live.

Steve Whitlow

Dependable, faithful, committed. Those are the words people use to describe Steve Whitlow and it is evident in his commitment to the Animal Control Task Force Advisory Board where he has served since its inception in 1994. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board, a position he has held off and on over the years.

Mr. Whitlow is a tremendous resource for the board with his historical knowledge. He has always been an advocate for animal-related concerns and as a member of the board, he has seen many positive changes at Animal Control including policy changes that resulted in more animal adoptions and the creation of a low-cost spay-neuter program. Currently, the Task Force is involved in the process of building a new Animal Control facility, touring other facilities, and reviewing presentations

Those that work with Mr. Whitlow are impressed by his caring and conscientious approach and his innate ability to bring people together. When the Task Force reviews appeals of civil citations Mr. Whitlow's composed demeanor has a way of calming even the most volatile situation. He brings people together in a way that resolves issues to everyone's satisfaction.

In addition to his work on the Animal Control Task Force Advisory Board, Mr. Whitlow served on the Caromont Board of Directors for twelve years and is an active member of Second Baptist Church in Belmont.

Mr. Whitlow does not seek the spotlight. He just serves his community humbly and steadfastly.

Hoyle Withers

On the day he turned 18, Hoyle Withers went to Gaston Lifesaving Crew and signed up as a volunteer. That was in April of 1970. Well, a few years have passed since then, but his service in the emergency medical field has gone uninterrupted to this day.

Mr. Withers left Gaston Lifesaving Crew in 1984 and joined the Dallas Rescue Squad which was co-founded by his father Earl Withers. He has been Chief since 1986. Mr. Withers has served on the Gaston County Rescue / Ambulance Association for many years, received the Gaston County Rescue Volunteer of the Year award on more than one occasion, and currently serves on the SARA Local Planning Committee and the Emergency Medical Services Committee.

As with anyone who stays in a field for a long period of time, Mr. Withers has seen a lot of changes over the years, but one of the changes he was instrumental in bringing to the rescue squads was EMT-Defibrillation Certification. In fact, he was one of the first rescue squad members to obtain the certification.

He is described as a strong leader who leads by example. He continually strives to make things better and he holds his crew members accountable to do the same.

Chief Withers has said that it is the thought of helping people that drives him and that if the time ever came that he no longer enjoyed what he did he would retire. We're all glad that time hasn't come yet.