Foundation presents award for leadership, service

HICKORY — The Catawba Valley Leadership Foundation recently presented their annual Leadership Impact Award to Ben Willis.

Willis serves as the Director for Community and Economic Development for Western Piedmont Council of Governments and previously held numerous leadership positions in Caldwell County, including chairman of the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce.

The announcement of the award came Sept. 9 at the foundation’s annual leadership conference, which brought together more than 450 area leaders for the half-day event. Foundation Director, Victoria Schronce, said, “Unfortunately Mr. Willis was unable to make the conference because of a family illness. Chase Keller, President of Granite Insurance, announced Mr. Willis as this year’s recipient at the conference, but we had to arrange a separate time for the actual presentation of the award.”

Keller presented the award to Willis in a brief ceremony Sept. 28 at the offices of The Catawba Valley Leadership Foundation. Keller emphasized Willis’ commitment to the local area and his service to business, education, and community efforts to strengthen the region. He noted that Willis previously served as director of The Education Foundation of Caldwell County, as a member of Lenoir City Council, and for over a decade in various roles at Caldwell Community College.

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The Catawba Valley Leadership Foundation President, Chad Hall, said, “This is the fourth year we have given the award and we’re delighted to present it to someone as deserving as Ben Willis. The Foundation established the award to recognize men and women in the region who sacrifice and serve to help the community flourish, and Mr. Willis exemplifies exactly what we hope to highlight. Our community is filled with leaders like Mr. Willis and our hope is that the award not only brings much-deserved attention to him and his service, but also encourages others to step up and lead in ways that help the Catawba Valley thrive.”

The Catawba Valley Leadership Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that exists to strengthen the Catawba Valley by nurturing strong leaders throughout the area, especially those leaders who serve in education, nonprofit, faith, and public sectors. To learn more, visit


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