Press Club taps Getz newsmaker of year for 2010, Simmons as newsmaker of decade

The Press Club of Southeast Texas honored Mike Getz as the 2010 Newsmaker of the Year on Friday, June 3 at its 20th Annual Awards Banquet. Lamar University President James Simmons was honored as Newsmaker of the Decade.

Getz was chosen by a vote of Press Club members from a field of five finalists as being the Southeast Texan who had the most significant impact on issues and events in 2010. While Getz was a strong figure in the unsuccessful effort to stop the demolition of the former South Park High School, it was his leadership to change the way the Beaumont Independent School District trustees are elected that garnered him the most attention.

Getz led the charge and secured more than 10,000 signatures to include a referendum on the May 2011 ballot to change the Beaumont ISD board’s electoral system from seven single-member districts to five single districts with two at-large positions, like that of the city’s council delegation. Getz and other leaders of the political action group called BETTER (Beaumonters Embracing Transition Toward Election Reform) met the signature goal in one of the biggest grass roots political efforts in the area. In a massive citywide campaign, the group held numerous petition drives and Getz himself spent nearly every weekend collecting signatures or going door-to-door to garner enough signatures by the August 2010 deadline.

Last month, 54 percent of Beaumont voters approved the proposal for two at-large members.  In that same election, Getz won the Ward 2 seat on Beaumont’s City Council.

The other newsmaker finalists were former West Orange-Stark football coach Dan Hooks, Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, Lamar University women’s basketball coach and former athletics director Larry Tidwell, and Lamar University football coach Ray Woodard.

Simmons was selected by the club members as Newsmaker of the Decade for his extraordinary leadership at Lamar University during a decade in which there have been major improvements in facilities, academics and research, more than $80 million raised in the university’s first-ever comprehensive campaign, expansion in enrollment despite two major hurricanes, and the much-celebrated return of college football to the university. Simmons is the only Newsmaker of the Year to receive the honor twice. He was honored in 1999 and in 2009. Press Club members voted for Newsmaker of the Decade from all Newsmakers of the Year between 2000 – 2009.

Winners in the annual Excellence in the Media contest sponsored by the Press Club of Southeast Texas were also announced at the banquet. Judges across the country chose winning works from more than 620 entries submitted by news media, public relations, academia, public affairs, corporate communication and public information professionals from the nine-county region.

Proceeds from the contest and banquet support the Press Club Memorial Scholarship for communication students at Lamar University. After many years of awarding scholarships directly, the club established the endowment in the LU Foundation in 2002, and it has grown steadily to become the largest endowment supporting students in Lamar’s communication programs.

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