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July 14, 2014

Local businessman named Rotarian of the Year

— The Rotary Club recently named an Athens businessman — known for his community service — their first Rotarian of the Year.

Doug Gates, a Limestone County native and Rotary Club member since 1988, was presented the award at the club’s annual awards banquet.

Gates, a local stockbroker for Raymond James and Associates in Athens, was surprised because Rotary had never given the award. He admits he wasn’t prepared for the announcement.

Gates is cited for being an integral part of several Rotary projects, from “grunt work” to helping with grants. He calls it “the fun stuff.”

He was part of the Jefferson Street tree beautification project and was recently involved in beautification of the area around High Cotton Arts, the former W.E. Estes building.

The most recent part of that project is the area behind the building and in front of the railroad tracks.

“It was a jungle back there,” he said. “We got all the Rotarians together and chopped downed and pruned bushes and trees. Sprayed this. Tilled that. And chased off all the snakes. We got that to where we can see it now. We can see what we are working with.”

No doubt, Gates has a Rotarian’s heart. “I like doing all these projects,” he said. “That is fun to me.”

Kurt Grissom, who made the award presentation, described Gates as “a leader of old men.” 

“It’s like … come on, let’s go play,” Gates said. “In Rotary, you can. In Rotary it’s like 110 members or something and you can always get 10 or 15 to go play with you.”

Judge Jimmy Woodroof served on the five-member committee that chose Gates for the honor. Woodroof said Gates is a leader when it comes to community projects.

“He is an extension of the community,” said Woodroof, explaining Gates has already worked on a number of projects, but continues to work on yearly projects for the club.

Woodroof said he has been in Rotary 30-plus years. “We are more active and more involved today than we have ever been,” he said. “It is largely because of people like Doug who said, ‘hey, we need to get out and do something. We need to help people.’ He minimized it and said, ‘We are going to have fun,’ but it’s more than that. He has a real vested interest in the community and wants to see Rotary make a difference. Rotary can make difference.

“Doug has taken Rotary out of the room and made it viable and made it good for the community,” Woodruff said. “He is a leader.”

Amy Golden, the first installed female president in Athens' Rotary's 77-year history, has known Gates since the '90s.  “He’s that person who is a bedrock Rotarian member,” Golden said. “The support and the foundation of our Rotary Club. The thing that keeps it strong.”

Gates operates behind the scenes to develop projects and implements the plan to make those projects happen, according to Golden. “He is also instrumental in educating new Rotarians,” she said.

Gates and wife Betsy have two children, Sam, also a local businessman, and Caroline, a registered dietician in Nashville. They are also expecting their first grandchild in September. 

Gates has lived from Veto to Athens and calls himself a “lifelong resident.”

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