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James Ayers of Monticello is a busy man. So busy that he was almost not able to show up to claim his award as the local Citizen of the Year.
But duties relating to his post as president of Cim-Tek Filtration in Bement – one of his numerous jobs and activities – eased enough for him to be present to receive the award, given at the Monticello Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner Nov. 13 at the Allerton Park and Retreat Center.
“What is surprising is he hasn’t won this award yet,” said Amy George, Director of Market Development and Special Projects for The News-Gazette. She listed Ayers’ accomplishments in announcing the award, which is co-sponsored by the Piatt County Journal-Republican, the News-Gazette and the Monticello Chamber of Commerce.
George’s overview included Ayers’ work not only as a local attorney and President of Cim-Tek, but as a past two-term mayor of Monticello and long-time member of Rotary and Lions Club.
With with all of those bullet points on his resume, he admitted that he is most proud of his work with two volunteer efforts – Boy Scouts of America and as a 24-year member of the Board of Trustees at Parkland College.
“This is not an award that I really sought,” said Ayers, who was kept in the dark about the award until he arrivd at the chamber gathering.
“There was only one award I ever sought and that was the Silver Beaver for the Boy Scouts,” said Ayers in his light-hearted acceptance speech. The award is a distinguished service award given by the Boy Scouts of America to adult leaders, and Ayers joked that it took four trips to the Philmont Scout Ranch as well as treks to the Appalachian Trail and the Boundary Waters in Minnesota for him to receive it.
“I had so many great experiences with young people, and I think that’s the key to Boy Scouts – the opportunity to provide them with leadership opportunities, character-building opportunities, and things that they will remember,” added Ayers.
He also spoke briefly on his 24 years on the Board of Trustees at Parkland College, which wife Linda called “his first passion. He has a vision for Parkland and he’s always looking for new programs or ways to make it better.”
It’s a passion that has not faded over those two-plus decades on the board, as he intends on running for a fifth term next spring. Ayers said he is proud that “there has always been someone from Monticello on the Board of Trustees.”
He also waxed poetic on his home town, saying that “it’s the characters and the characteristics of the people who live here that make it so great.”
George’s research into this year’s Citizen of the Year showed Ayers has come a long way. She shared a story about grade school teachers who were happy that he had “finally smiled in class.
“That story would surprise anyone who knows hm today, just as it surprised his wife (Sandy) when she heard it, as she has never known him to be anything but outgoing. Apparently he grew out of that,” commented George.
Ayers also served in active duty at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, and returned to Monticello in 1979, where he has practiced law and volunteered in organizations throughout the area since.