The Belton Journal

Dozens of family, friends and dignitaries gathered last Friday to celebrate and honor the 2023 recipients of the Beltonian and Citizen of the Year with a tree dedication in Heritage Park in Belton. 

“This tradition of collaborating with the City of Belton and the Chamber goes back over two decades to bestow this lasting legacy,” said Randy Pittenger, Belton Chamber of Commerce President.  The first honorary tree was planted in 2000.

This past January, the Chamber named Terri Covington as The Citizen of the Year. The award is given to the person who made a significant contribution to the community through Chamber-related activities during the previous year.

“It means a lot to be honored by the chamber for all my years of service, and especially a wonderful representation and collaboration between the City and the Chamber since my husband Jim and I dedicated over 40 years of our lives to this community,” said Terri Covington. 

“Terri has distinguished herself as a highly respected servant leader in our community. She leads by example and people follow. She has served on numerous boards and advisory committees, including the Chamber Board of Directors for the past six years, and as Chair in 2020. Her example of service and leadership in our community and for the chamber is immeasurable,” said Pittenger.

Another tree was planted and dedicated for Joe Sheppard, recipient of the Beltonian Award. This award is given in recognition of longtime achievement in volunteer service to the Belton community.

“One of the things I learned many years ago is that Joe passionately believes as a community we have an obligation to support families, and his dedication to youth programs and opportunities for children and families to thrive is notable. He even spent 14 years coaching in our youth sports programs,” said Pittenger.

“It’s an unexpected honor for me. Like so many people in the community, we keep our head down and serve and take care of our families and do what we’re supposed to do,” said Joe Sheppard. “I hope it will inspire the younger generation to do what they need to do. I am so encouraged by what I see when I go around to all of the area ball fields and see families together all working for the same thing. It’s really a special place to be.”

In addition to being a successful and influential businessman and developer, Sheppard has volunteered his service on numerous boards, including six years on the Belton ISD Board of Trustees (1999-2005), 14 years on the Belton Economic Development Corporation Board (2009-2023), the Reinvestment Board representing BISD, Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation, Bell County Appraisal Board, Miller Springs Nature Alliance and Belton Christian Youth Center.

The two trees with dedication plaques can be viewed at the Heritage Park entrance off 13th Street in Belton.

“It’s really precious to me to be honored by the chamber and city with my tree along the same line of trees that my late husband Jim was honored,” Covington added.