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Chamber names 5 'Women of Excellence'

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This year’s “Women of Excellence” award winners are (l-r) Rachel Riddick, founder of Elizabeth City’s AARP chapter; Amber Davis, principal of Camden County Early College and Camden County High School; Norma James, a Realtor and vice president of the Home Builders Association of Northeastern NC; Dena Richardson, interim fire marshal for the city of Elizabeth City; and Rhonda James-Davis, interim superintendent of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools. The five women were presented their awards during the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Women of Excellence Luncheon at The Carolina Center on Wednesday.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce honored five local women with “Women of Excellence” awards on Wednesday, celebrating their diverse skills and accomplishments as well as their devotion to service.

The Chamber presented the awards at a luncheon that drew record turnout and packed The Carolina Center north of Elizabeth City.

This year’s winners included Amber Davis, principal of Camden County High School and Camden Early College; Norma James, a Realtor and community leader; Rhonda James-Davis, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools’ career and technical education coordinator and interim superintendent; Rachel Reddick, founder of a local AARP chapter and long-time community volunteer; and Dena Richardson, a firefighter and interim fire marshal with the Elizabeth City Fire Department.

In opening remarks, Chamber President Holly Staples noted that this year’s nominees, 20 in total, drew the largest audience ever for the nine-year-old event.

“That is truly a testament to the amazing group of women who were nominated,” Staples said, adding she was glad to not have to decide which most deserved this year’s awards. A committee of past Women of Excellence winners chose this year’s winners, she noted.

The people who nominated each woman offered brief remarks on why they were deserving.

Amber Davis

Being principal of one high school is a big job, let alone two, but Davis excels at it, Susan Ott, who nominated Davis, explained to the crowd.

Davis started with Camden in 2001 as an English teacher, and Ott said she distinguished herself in and out of the classroom. She volunteered her time constantly for extracurricular activities like honor society, football games, and helping with innumerable other student events, she said.

Davis served as principal of CamTech, the forerunner of what is now Camden Early College in 2014, and took over as principal of both schools last year.

Davis has devoted the hours and energy needed to manage the ins and outs of both schools, including managing two student bodies and two sets of faculty, Ott continued. She works long hours while still making sure she’s not only visible, but encouraging, to students and staff. Ott described Davis’ enthusiasm and work ethic as infectious.

“Her number-one priority is to make sure her schools are something the community can be proud of,” Ott said.

Norma James

Sheryl Lovitt gave brief remarks about James before turning the mic over to the Women in Excellence award winner. Lovitt noted James, like other women, is expected to play many roles in her personal and professional life — and to play them well.

James’ nominating paperwork, provided by the Chamber, describes her as a leading member of the Home Builders Association of Northeastern NC and the Albemarle Area Association of Realtors. It also notes she’s a past president of Elizabeth City’s Habitat for Humanity and a past trustee of Elizabeth City State University.

James said she’s been lucky in her life, and that luck includes having a father who instilled the value of hard work in her. She also said her faith urges her to do the best she can in all her tasks, as a way to honor God.

Rhonda James-Davis

Doris James, James-Davis’ aunt, said her niece was a trailblazer even before she went to work for ECPPS. James-Davis worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for seven years, specifically at its Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia as a mechanical engineer designer.

Her subsequent career in education spans 25 years, starting in Currituck County as a teacher before she assumed administrative positions.

James said James-Davis has shown passion to serve others in all her endeavors, and remains personable and humble despite her accomplishments. She also explained that, as one might expect of an engineer and technical education coordinator, James-Davis still puts her mechanical skills to work.

She’s done work for the U.S. Coast Guard Base, and also isn’t too busy to keep family members’ vacuum cleaners working, James added.

Rachel Reddick

Reddick’s daughter, Jan Person, explained that her mother has an “impeccable sense of courage” and has excelled despite not completing college. Reddick first worked for the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles before the federal agency sent her to Washington, D.C., Person said.

Upon returning to Elizabeth City, her town of birth, in 1996, she soon became bored, and decided to do something about it, Person continued. She started the city’s chapter of AARP, and has also served as a president of the National Council of Negro Women.

In addition to those groups, Reddick has also served the community through the River City Community Development Corp., and her church, Fifth Tabernacle, according to her nominating paperwork.

Reddick called her Women of Excellence award a “wonderful surprise,” and said she’s always focused on helping others, not accolades.

Dena Richardson

Richardson has served the city Fire Department well since joining it in 1997, Deputy Fire Chief Chris Carver told the crowd. She worked from the ground up, going from office assistant to public educator to fire inspector to now serving as interim fire marshal. She is also a trained firefighter, among her other certifications, Carver noted.

When she’s not seeing to fire safety, Richardson also helps run her family farm, Carver added, and he praised her as one of the hardest-working people he knows.

Getting a little choked up at the recognition, Richardson offered her thanks to God, whom she thanked for positioning her to serve others.

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