Gene Starnes recognized as Stanly’s 25th Citizen of the Year

Published 11:19 am Friday, February 3, 2023

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For someone who has been a stalwart in the Stanly County community for many decades, having owned Starnes Jewelers in downtown Albemarle for roughly half a century and been active with many civic organizations, Gene Starnes has always been about helping other people.

But it was Starnes who found himself in the spotlight Thursday evening during the Stanly County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, as it recognized him as the 25th Stanly County Citizen of the Year.

“He needs to take three letters out of his last name,” said County Commissioner Peter Asciutto, who received the same award in 2019, the last time the annual meeting was held, and was the first to break the news to Starnes a few weeks ago. “He needs to drop the -nes because he is the star of Stanly County.”

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others,” Asciutto added, quoting the author Mandy Hale. “Gene Starnes does just that.”

During his speech, Starnes, who stepped away from Starnes Jewelers early last year, mentioned how much he has enjoyed being active within not just his hometown of Albemarle but all of Stanly County.

Besides his work as a jeweler, Starnes has served as a member of the Albemarle Rotary Club, a member of the Historical Restructuring Committee and has been involved with the Stanly County Museum.

“I believe in giving back to the community,” he said, noting what a surprise it was to be selected for the award.

“I have not worked a day in my life because I have enjoyed what I did so much,” he added, with many of his former employees and family in attendance. Starnes gave a special shout out to brother-in-law Chris Bramlett, who now operates the store under the name Starnes Bramlett Jewelers.

Gene Starnes was owner of Starnes Jewelers for almost 50 years before he retired early last year.

Lisa A Lewis, owner of Money Matters Bookkeeping, LLC, who actually joined the Chamber and became an ambassador last year, received the Ambassador of the Year award. Originally from Philadelphia, Lewis and her husband have lived in Stanly County since 2016.

“My fellow ambassadors have made me very comfortable here being from out of state and I have enjoyed everything that goes on with the Chamber and the activities in the surrounding community,” Lewis said.

Lisa A Lewis has been a Chamber member and ambassador since last year.

The guest speaker for the event was Christopher Chung, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. He works to help advance the state’s economic interests primarily through the organization’s success in new business recruitment, existing business expansion, international trade and export assistance, small business start-up counseling, and tourism, sports and film promotion.

Since 2020, there have been around 450 corporate recruitment and expansion projects across the state, Chung told the crowd, accounting for roughly 71,000 jobs and more than $30 billion in new investment.

“And that’s not possible without a strong concerted team effort that involves a lot of partners,” he said.

At the end of the event, Chamber President and CEO Sandy Selvy-Mullis announced the 2023 Chamber Leadership Board. Members are: Board Chairman William Huneycutt, Immediate Past Chair Dr. John Enamait, Membership Chair Nicole Williams, Leadership Chair Dr. Carmen Nunalee and board members at-large James Baucom, Angela Kluttz, Marietta Abernathy, Charlie Lentz, Jonah Morgan and Scott Childress.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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