Award takes Chamber emcee by surprise

September 25, 2004|by TARA REILLY

The head of a local tourism agency joked that the surprise award he received Thursday night was an honor for grown-ups.

"Whose idea was this?" Thomas B. Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau asked moments after he received the Business Volunteer of the Year Award from the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The award was announced at the Chamber's 85th Annual Meeting at Four Points Sheraton.

Riford, who was the event's emcee, joked that he unsuccessfully tried to find out ahead of time who the winner would be.


"This is a big surprise, and I mean it. I could not find out from anybody who the award winner was, and it bothered me," he joked.

Riford's impromptu response matched a description of him given by then Chamber board Chairman Timothy G. Henry before he presented the award to the Visitors Bureau's chief.

Henry described Riford as "unique" and "multifaceted," and a person you don't know whether to take seriously after you first meet him.

"Don't let the laughter fool you," Henry said. "This person is serious ..."

Henry said Riford was a man who spends a lot of time trying to make Hagerstown and Washington County a better place to live.

Riford, a Cornell University graduate, became the president and chief executive officer of the Convention and Visitors Bureau in March.

Riford also has served as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce's Business and Community Development Committee and is on the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce.

He is on the board of directors of the Miss Washington County/Miss Western Maryland Scholarship Foundation, was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and spent several years in journalism, winning the 1989 CBS Radio News Affiliate Reporter of the Year award.

The Chamber of Commerce also handed out three other business awards. Miquela R. Strait of Coolfont ReCreation near Berkeley Springs, W.Va., was named Small Business Person of the Year; Hagerstown Suns General Manager Kurtis L. Landes was named Business Person of the Year and Nick Giannaris, owner of Four Points Sheraton and Nick's Airport Inn and founder of Christmas with Nick, received the Distinguished Community Service Award.

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