Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber Announces 2017 Headrick And Varnell Award Recipients

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Arthur Rhodes
Arthur Rhodes

Arthur D. Rhodes, 2017 Varnell Award recipient, and John Hawk, M.C. Headrick Free Enterprise Award recipient were recognized at the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber’s 92nd annual meeting on Tuesday.

“Art Rhodes resume and character demonstrates outstanding leadership in his profession, community service and church,” said nominator Bob Card, president Easy Auto Credit, Inc.

Mr. Rhodes, president and chief executive officer for Church of God Benefits Board Inc. and the Church Loan Fund, Inc., received the Robert W. Varnell Jr. Leadership Award. Named for the late Robert W. Varnell Jr., the award is one of the top honors presented annually by the Chamber of Commerce which recognizes outstanding leadership for profession, religion/church and community.

Mr. Rhodes has played an active leadership role in the community since he and his family moved to Cleveland in 1999. As a lawyer by training, he has served in a variety of roles in his profession and business, since completing his education at the University of Mississippi Law School. Early on in his career, while serving as a prosecutor he was appointed by the Governor of Mississippi to serve as legal counsel for the State Department of Public Welfare. Following this stint of public service, he went into private practice where he specialized in construction litigation with a firm in Jackson, Ms.

“Art Rhodes brings a broad perspective to any organization he represents. His advice is generated by his experience at both the public and private level,” said Donald Lorton, retired executive from the Maytag Corporation.  In 1988, Mr. Rhodes joined Mississippi State 4th District Representative Mike Parker’s staff in Washington, D.C., to serve as chief of staff and legal counsel for legislative matters. He served in that capacity for over a decade, until Congressman Parker retired. His dedication to the institution of Congress was recognized in 1996 when he was named a recipient of a fellowship from the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service and the first Mississippian to receive the prestigious award.  

“Everything he becomes involved with becomes better as he brings his own style of leadership to the table,” said Cameron Fisher, communications coordinator for Church of God International Offices. In 1999, Mr. Rhodes was named president and CEO of the Church of God Benefits Board, Inc. in Cleveland. The Benefits Board manages a pension plan for ministers and church-related employees and oversees the investments of the board, now totaling $350 million. In 2010, he was also appointed the president and CEO of the Church Loan Fund, Inc., an organization which currently services 135 church loans totaling over $35 million. He has also chaired the Ecumenical Association, Denominational Investors and Loan Administrators Boards.

“Art models the spirit of service by his consistent and valuable contributions to the United Way and his community. Art has a way of bringing strong business sense to his volunteer and service work with the compassion and grace that has defined his leadership in our community. Wisdom and heart, Art represents leadership at its very finest,” said Matt Ryerson, president and CEO United Way of the Ocoee Region. Mr. Rhodes previously chaired the United Way, served on the Executive Committee, led the Investment Committee and numerous other United Way committees. He also received the highest volunteer award designation from United Way as a William F. Johnson Award recipient in 2012.

“He is a thoughtful, sincere and committed community volunteer, as evidenced by his years of leadership and involvement in the United Way, Cleveland Rotary Club, Rotary Foundation and Gideon’s International,” said C. Louis Patten, Jr., Partner Cornerstone Insurance. Mr. Rhodes became a member of the Cleveland Rotary Club in 1999 where he’s served as president and is recognized as one of the founders of the club’s foundation. In addition Rhodes is a member of Gideon’s International, serves on the executive committee of the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation, the Family Resource Agency Board, the Youth Counseling Service Board and president for the local YMCA.  

Mr. Rhodes is a life-long member of the Church of God and has been very active in church activities, which have included numerous mission trips around the globe. He is a guest lecturer and author, providing training to ministers and church leaders from across the country. He has also chaired a Global Education Board for the Church of God denomination which oversees more than 120 educational institutions around the world.

He and his wife, Angie are the parents of Taylor and Katelyn.

John Hawk, president and managing partner of Lubing Systems, LP, received the M.C. Headrick Free Enterprise Award.

The Headrick Award is the highest award given by the Chamber of Commerce and honors the ideals of the late M.C. Headrick, a successful Cleveland businessman who staunchly believed in the concept of free enterprise: “Put men on their own to make economic decisions, and let them reap the rewards or lack of rewards from those decisions.”

“John Hawk is a very talented self- taught engineer and energetic personality,” said nominator Julia Scoggins, president / COO at J&S Restaurants, Inc. “He tackles any problem with an analytical mind and tenacity.” The first of those success stories began in 1985 where his career in the poultry industry began. He was recruited in Technical Sales for SBM Infrared Heating, a French company which manufactured agricultural heaters. John traveled across the country instructing farmers on the use and maintenance of heaters. He was promoted to Technical Director in 1987, also the same year he married wife, Karen and relocated to the company’s U.S. operations in Fredericksburg, VA.

The following year, he and his wife Karen celebrated the birth of a new baby, which motivated the young couple to come back home to Tennessee. In 1989, he bought land in Cleveland, with the purpose and vision to establish a poultry farm.  In 1991, he was hired by Lubing Systems Corporation based in Woodstock, GA. This national company develops, manufactures and distributes nipple drinking systems, egg conveying, and high pressure fogging systems for the poultry industry. “From the beginning, John formed strong relationships with his customers, which continue to this day,” said Ms. Scoggins. “When John first began, Lubing was not really known in the layer industry.  However with his focus and drive, the company now holds 85-95% of the layer market share.”

In 2001, Mr. Hawk purchased his retiring boss’s share of Lubing and moved the company to a new facility in Cleveland’s South Industrial Park the following year. During this time of reorganization, he also renamed the company Lubing Systems, L.P.  He also recognized a great many changes in the poultry industry, where he further successfully expanded and developed business partnerships internationally in 2003, such as with Barku Plastics. The successful business venture produces high precision custom molds, manufactured locally.  “John’s leadership style has created a culture of integrity, passion, and innovation in both companies, where employees were treated like family,” said Ms. Scoggins. 

Today, Mr. Hawk employs nearly 70 in his companies and is well respected in the poultry and egg industry having served on the board of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association. He is a prior recipient of the prestigious Lamplighter Award recognized for his “sustained and exemplary service” to the egg and poultry industry. He has served on numerous community and civic boards including Junior Achievement, the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, and Cleveland Associated Industries. John also supports the efforts of Life Bridges and utilizes this organization’s clients within his company.

“John is a first generation poultry farmer who took the knowledge and experience gleaned from the endeavor to create a successful business which has created jobs and helped build a stronger economy for our community,” said Ms. Scoggins. “He has remained true to his fellow farmers and is constantly thinking of ways to improve the poultry industry.”

He and his wife, Karen are the parents of Chris and Chelsea.


John Hawk
John Hawk


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