Rick Shepard remembers the day someone called to tell him he was the recipient of the 2010 Leadership Blount Community Leadership Award.
“I was driving down the road, and I about had a wreck,” he said. “I’m joking, but it is very humbling, especially when you know who has had this honor before.”
On Friday morning April 16, members of the community gathered at St. Andrews Episcopal Church to honor Shepard for his years of community service to Blount County.
Shepard accepted the award and shared his thoughts on the award. “I’m at a loss for words. I’m extremely humbled to be standing here,” he said. “I know too much about myself.”
Shepard recalled advice his father gave him. “My dad reminded me frequently, ‘Son, it’s not who you are, it’s what you are.’ It’s all about what you are doing for God, country and self, in that order,” Shepard said.
Adriel McCord, chair of the Leadership Blount board, introduced three individuals who shared their thoughts on Shepard.
Trudy Hughes, executive director of New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center said Shepard is a “true-blue” leader who often shares wisdom simply by telling stories. Hughes said Shepard’s father was a big influence on him and always implored him to do the right thing. “He always emphasized the importance of telling the truth,” she said of Shepard’s father.
Hughes said retired Gen. and Blount Chamber Partnership CEO Fred Forster was a mentor who influenced Shepard in part because he was always concerned with the safety and well-being of those who served with him during military deployments.
Joy Bishop said Shepard’s attitude makes him a good leader. “He is always positive and believes in the success of the project,” she said. “A leader is without bias or prejudice. I believe this is a basic characteristic of Rick’s heart.”
Bishop said Shepard has the ability to work with anyone. “We wish we all had the personality and characteristics you have,” she said to Shepard. “We’re proud of you being a leader in our community.”
Kevin Painter praised his friend. “Two words come to mind when you think of Rick Shepard - sacrifice and service,” he said.
Painter said that when he returned to Blount County after college and became involved in the community, Shepard was someone who helped him. “Rick has a passion for community that manifests itself in service. Leadership is not measured in words but in actions. Rick I’m proud of you,” he said.
Shirley Carr-Clowney said after the breakfast that Shepard, “is a great role model,” she said.
Michelle Hankes, president and CEO of the United Way of Blount County, praised Shepard and his wife, Cindy, for their involvement in the community. “Rick is one of those people who has helped everyone, and he has someone in Cindy who has supported him and she should be getting part of this award,” Hankes said. “She’s a wonderful partner.”
Brian Tuggle had kind words for his friend. “He’s very well-deserving, and it could not have happened to a better person,” Tuggle said. “He has a tireless devotion to this community.”
State Rep. Bob Ramsey said a community depends on putting good people in influential positions. “Rick for years has been a huge factor in training, developing and preparing our youth to take over leadership positions in this community,” he said.
Cindy Shepard said the award was a great honor. “It’s not often in life you have the opportunity to know your efforts make a difference.”
Ned Willard said he sat on the board of New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center with Shepard and saw how hard he worked in the community. “It’s a good choice,” he said.
Former Maryville city manager Gary Hensley praised Shepard. “I think it was well-deserved with his years of involvement on economic development projects,” he said.
Judy Clabough said she couldn’t think of anyone more deserving. “He and Cindy have been so incredibly involved. He’s just made a huge commitment to public service and I’m pleased he’s being recognized,” she said.
Patti Clevenger was glad Shepard won. “When I heard it was him, I wanted to be the one who told him,” she said. “He’s been so successful because he has a servant’s heart, and he does it for the right reasons.”
Shepard graduated from Porter High School in 1976, earned a degree in organizational management from the Community College of the Air Force. He retired from the Tennessee Air National Guard after 21 years of service and tours of duty in the Gulf War and the Bosnia/Kosovo conflict. He has been in banking since 1980 when he started with the Bank of Maryville. He started with SunTrust Bank in 1984, retired in 2005 as regional president and currently is city president of United Community Bank.
Shepard said he started getting involved in the community when SunTrust Bank came to Blount County in 1997. Fred Forster, a man he considers his mentor, advised him to get involved in the community. “One thing he said was we should get involved in key areas in the community to show that the bank and its personnel were serious about the community,” he said.
Shepard has served on the United Way board and was board chair in 2007. He served on the board of the Chamber from 1999 to 2004, and he has been involved with the Blount County Education Foundation. He was on the executive board of the Great Smoky Mountains chapter of the Boys Scouts of America and currently is on the advisory board to the executive board. He is chair of the board of New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center.
Shepard said the two areas nearest to his and his wife’s heart are caring for children and caring for the elderly. “Cindy and I don’t have children of our own, so we thought we should give back to community by helping people who can’t help themselves.”
Shepard reserved his biggest praise for his wife. “I guess at the end of the day, I’m involved in a lot but it couldn’t have been possible without Cindy backing me up on the home front.”