Betty Oglesbee, known as the “Matriarch of San Augustine,” was named the 2019 Silver Bucket Award recipient at Wednesday’s Texas Forest Country Partnership Economic Development Summit.

“The Silver Bucket recognizes an individual who has toted a lot of wood and water for East Texas, and this year’s recipient has done so much more than just tote a bucket or two,” Van Watson, her nephew and a representative of Southside Bank, said.

Oglesbee is well-known for her work preserving East Texas’ history, according to Watson.

More than 40 years ago, she was involved in a significant archaeological find near downtown San Augustine and has spearheaded several projects through to completion, he said. This includes the restoration of the San Augustine County Courthouse and Jail built in 1919 at no cost to local residents.

“Known as the matriarch of her community, our recipient shies away from publicity and taking credit for so many of the projects that she pushed through, but she is so deserving,” Watson said. “She has spent most of her life campaigning for and spearheading restoration projects that are significant historically and for tourism locally and statewide.”

She successfully lobbied legislators and the Texas Historical Commission to make Mission Delores the 21st historic site owned and operated by the commission in 2016. She was later awarded the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation by the commission.

“Were it not for our recipient, Mission Delores and so many other important artifacts of San Augustine’s rich history might have fallen and been forgotten,” Watson said.

The summit also recognized 12 small businesses from Deep East Texas as “Small Businesses of the Year.”

Integra Insurance Services, a small business based in Huntington that is run by Melody Lowery and Shawn Tatum — Lowery’s son, was recognized as Angelina County’s award recipient.

“Integra Insurance Services has been in business for more than twenty-four years and has a long history of being very visible in Angelina County and extremely proactive in helping the school district and kids from the district,” said Don Iles, the Texas Forest Country Partnership chairman and a representative of the Sabine River Authority.

They’ve built a reputation of sponsoring projects, programs or activities by youth to help them grow and learn. They also support a diverse range of programs in the name of supporting youth, Iles said.

“There are only a few businesses or individuals as conscientious about giving to their community as Integra Insurance Services,” he said.

The summit also featured a variety of speakers and discussions, including one regarding the East Texas Manufacturing Alliance, the Texas Rural Funders Collaborative and a discussion on competing globally and ensuring workforce readiness.

Christian Fischer, Georgia-Pacific’s president and CEO, spoke about what being a successful business means during his keynote address. Fisher spent the morning touring the GP’s Diboll Lumber Plant.

“The role of any business in society is really to serve customers better,” he said. “What does that mean? Provide them alternative products and services that are better than the alternatives. … Do that and consume fewer resources — in my way of thinking that’s really the art of sustainability. Don’t waste anything.

“Because the fact that the competition never sleeps, we can’t afford to sleep either. We’ve got to constantly innovate because our customers constantly have new, better alternatives.”

Iles was the moderator for the legislative panel discussion with East Texas lawmakers that closed the summit. Members of the panel, who were all Republicans, were state Sen. Robert Nichols and state Reps. Trent Ashby, Travis Clardy, Chris Paddie and James White.

They discussed a variety of topics such as House Bill 3, which provided additional funding for schools statewide, and their opinions regarding ways to entice businesses to East Texas, how to improve the workforce and its education and natural resources such as water and timber.

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