Jeanelle Norman

A Great Choice For 'Citizen Of The Year' 



Dr. Jeanelle Norman announces her candidacy for Decatur Mayor in this file photo from 1998.

I was very pleased to see that Dr. Jeanelle Norman was selected as “Citizen Of The Year” at last week’s Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce Awards Luncheon.
    Jeanelle been a valued friend for over 30 years and someone who has been involved in working to make the community a better place during all of those years and longer.
    She is also the president of the Decatur Branch of the NAACP.    
    Although a lot of attention has been focused on Jeanelle’s role in forming the Area Leaders and Education Response Team (ALERT), which was successfully put to the test during the recent high profile incident when a Decatur police officer shot a black man, that is only one part of what I’ve witnessed in her tireless efforts during all of the years I’ve known her.
    I’ve been around long enough as editor to remember that Jeanelle was the first black president of the Decatur School Board and the first black woman to run for mayor of Decatur in 1998.  I shot the above photo as she stood in a vacant lot making her announcement.  Although she was not elected, her desire to run for all of the right reasons left an impression on many and encouraged others to run for public office.
    Last week, I mentioned in this column the daily “Newsline” television program on WFHL that I produced and anchored for years in conjunction with this newspaper.
    A frequent guest on that program was Jeanelle Norman when she was president of the school board and she offered an extremely clear view of the district and where we were headed during that period in our city’s history.  I always enjoyed interviewing her and talking with her on a more personal level.
    I remember a few times when I was mayor that Jeanelle would bring concerned citizens to my office to discuss something they felt I should know about an issue confronting the community. 
    I also remember one group of young people she brought and, after talking with them for awhile in the conference room, as they rose to leave, Jeanelle instructed them to “thank the mayor for the time that he gave to us”...and they all responded and thanked me, which left a great impression on me.
    Years ago, Jeanelle found out that our oldest son’s birthday was on the same day  as her birthday and, on his next birthday he received a “Happy Birthday” card from her.
    He was a little amazed that the president of the Decatur School Board knew the birthday of a local student and sent him a card!  She’s always been thoughtful in that way.
    I will be eternally thankful to Jeanelle for “rescuing” me when I was mayor and one of the speakers at the head table during the annual NAACP banquet at the Decatur Convention Center and Hotel .
    I knew I had a kidney stone attack coming on, but, I kept it to myself because I didn’t want to let the people down who invited me.
    I also knew it was common for a mayor or public official to say a few words of welcome and then excuse himself from the banquet because he or she had “another commitment”.  (Actually, most of the time they just want to get out of there and they don’t have any other “commitment.)
    I always felt it was important for the mayor to stay for the whole event and also felt it was an insult to the crowd to get up and leave. 
    So, I was determined to smile and “tough it out” with kidney stone pain. I didn’t eat any of the meal and Jeanelle, who was sitting next to me, asked a couple of times if I was okay.  

• She Knew I Was Sick

    About a third of the way through the event, she leaned over and said something like “you need to get out of here. I know that you are not well.”
    So, she gently took my arm and walked wth me from the front to the back past all of the people and somehow, it seemed okay to them, if Jeanelle was walking me out.
    She walked me to the front door of the DCCH and asked if I needed help to get home or to the hospital.
    As most men do, I told her I could make it on my own.  She said that she would check later to see if I was okay.
    There are certain moments in our lives when an experience with someone cements a friendship forever.
    For me that was one of them.
    I think highly of Jeanelle Norman, and always have, not because of what she has spent her life doing publicly in this community, but because I know, from personal contact over the years -- what kind of a good, decent and highly motivated person she is, in those moments that go unseen by most.
    It was a great choice by Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe in selecting Dr. Jeanelle Norman as “Citizen of the Year”.

• Other Award Recipients

    Other award recipients included The Boys and Girls Club of Decatur that was selected as the Non-Profit of the Year, Lockhart's Barber College for Micro Business of the Year, Brinkoetter & Associates for Small Business of the Year, Lockhart's Barber Shop for Business Expansion, Vieweg Real Estate for Outstanding Development, Decatur Magazine Publisher Beth Stringer as Entrepre-neur of the Year, and Investment Planners, Inc. CEO/President David Koshinski with the Leadership Masters Award.
    Jason Doyle of Tate & Lyle was picked as Decatur Leadership Institute Alumnus of the Year and Hank Norris of Vieweg Real Estate was named Chamber Ambassador of the Year.
    Congratulations to all of them.
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