By MYRA THRIFT, Staff Writer
Phenomenal success in business and industry, education and the health field was the focus of awards and presentations made Friday evening during the 83rd annual Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce awards banquet.
Held at the City Auditorium, the evening was hailed as “The Golden Oscar Awards,” Oscar being the great alligator that swam the waters of the Okefenokee Swamp and greeted visitors to the swamp park off U.S. 1.
Award winners Friday included:
•Joseph Kirkland III, of Carolina Skiff, taking home the Ralph and P.O. Herrin Business and Industry Award (presented by Scott Howard)
•Allison Herrin, founder and owner of The Speech Clinic in Brunswick, Jesup and Waycross receiving the Randy Sharpe Health Hero Award (presented by Dave Callaway)
•Memorial Drive teacher Papani Saini accepting the Katherine Foss Education Award (presented by principal Dr. Wendy Good)
•community volunteer worker LaDonna Johnson receiving the Jack Williams Community Service Award (presented by Roger Williams).
Scott Howard, a grandson of Ralph Herrin and a nephew of Owen Herrin, handed to Kirkland the Herrin Business Award, which is presented annually to honor someone for enhancing economic development in Waycross and Ware County.
Through Kirkland’s leadership, Carolina Skiff has become “The No. 1 selling fiberglass outboard boat in lengths of 14 to 27 feet in the United States.” Carolina Skiff has retained the No. 1 title for 23 years and counting.
He and his wife Carla have been married for 40 years and have three children, son, Jay Kirkland, who teaches music and resides in Atlanta, and daughters, Ivey and Celeste. Ivey lives on Amelia Island with her husband Stanley Ezzell and their three daughters, Macy, Alexus and Sydney, and Celeste, who is serving in the United States Navy, resides in Lemoore, Calif., with her husband, Robert Herber.
Kirkland thanked the chamber and talked about the teamwork that it took to make Carolina Skiff the success it is today and to make the growth continue in the years to come.
He has more than 50 years of experience in manufacturing, designing and engineering in the fiberglass boat industry. He was introduced to boat building while working at his father’s company every day after school at the young age of 11. While there, Kirkland was exposed to all facets of boat designing and manufacturing and learned how to turn an idea into a finished product for the end user. This acquired experience inspired Kirkland to start his own bass boat business, Aggressor Boats, in 1979 in Willacoochee.
In 1984, Kirkland sold Aggressor Boats to Glasstream and was then hired and appointed operations manager from 1984 to 1990. Glasstream eventually sold in 1990 to Olan Mills and as they moved the main manufacturing facilities to Panama City, an opportunity became available for Kirkland to venture out again on his own to build custom boats, create new designs and tool for specialty products in and outside the boat industry.
In 1992, Carolina Skiff offered Kirkland the position of plant manager and after favorable negotiations, he accepted. In 1995, Kirkland was named vice president of Carolina Skiff Inc. and became the third largest stockholder. He remained VP until he was elected by the board to the position of president in July 2003.
Kirkland joined with Strategic Partners in 2004 to buy out the remaining stockholders and complete assets of Carolina Skiff Inc., forming the new corporation Carolina Skiff LLC. The board of Carolina Skiff LLC immediately elected Kirkland president/CEO in addition to part ownership. Kirkland is the only working member.