By Kim Steele

Killeen Daily Herald

The Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce honored several locals with awards Monday during its 23rd annual Awards Banquet and Celebration.

The event, themed "Reaching New Heights," focused on the growth of business in Harker Heights and thanked those who have worked hard to make it happen. The banquet featured a safari theme, complete with a tongue-in-cheek menu including crocodile skewers, python mashed potatoes and sea turtle cheesecake.

Lois Anderson was named the recipient of the Kern-Cox Award, given annually to the person a committee judges to have contributed the most to the city through the year. Anderson, who died in July, was dean emeritus of Central Texas College and a staunch supporter of the chamber.

"Lois would have told me to be brief, and I've already gone too long," said her husband, Jim Anderson, as he quickly accepted the award in her honor. "From the bottom of my heart, I thank you so much."

The Large Business of the Year Award went to First State Bank Central Texas, whose president and chief executive officer is Randy Sutton. The bank was honored for financially supporting businesses in Bell county's communities.

Freedom Urgent Care in Harker Heights was given the Small Business of the Year Award for its contributions to residents in the area through a much-needed service. The business is owned by Anna Marie McKenna.

The Ambassador of the Year Award went to Gina Pence, who works at The National Banks of Central Texas. Pence, a member of the chamber's ambassador committee for a year now, has been instrumental in bringing in new chamber members.

The Firefighter of the Year Award was presented to Harker Heights Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Gallenstein, who has served as a volunteer and full-time firefighter and paramedic since 1987. Gallenstein has worked as the department's deputy fire chief for 12 years.

Harker Heights Police Cpl. Randy Stefey received the Police Officer of the Year Award. Stefey, who joined the department in 2000, serves as the Special Weapons and Tactics assistant team leader, and as leader of the department's motorcycle and canine unit.

The chamber also presented a new annual award, the Linda Neault Award, to its namesake in her memory. Neault served as chairperson of the chamber, and was the first president of the Harker Heights Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association. Her husband, Paul Neault, accepted the award for her.

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