Typically during the Town of Leesburg’s annual business awards ceremony, Marantha Edwards is on stage helping to hand out trophies. This year, she was on the receiving end, as the 2018 George C. Marshall Award honoree in recognition of her long commitment to public service.
Edwards retired as Leesburg’s economic director this year after serving 17 years leading the town’s business development and tourism efforts. The Marshall Award is presented to a community leader who has demonstrated leadership, vision and community service following the example set by the five-star general, Secretary of State and Noble Peace Prize winner who lived in Leesburg.
“Her service to our community [Edwards] clearly exemplifies Marshall’s leadership principles and practices in her professional and personal life,” Pat Daly, the president and CEO of the George C. Marshall International Center, said in presenting the award. “Just has the Marshall Plan, which stimulated economic recovery after World War II, is the legacy of former Leesburg resident George C. Marshall, [Edward’s] vision for improving the quality of life in Leesburg through sustainable economic development together with her ability to lead and deliver transformative improvements to our community will be her legacy.”
That presentation capped off an evening of celebrating some of the town’s newest, most successful and impactful businesses.
“Business owners are a breed among themselves,” Mayor Kelly Burk said. “You guys are amazing. You’re not afraid of risks. You see opportunities when others see economic downturns. You see the future when other people look at today. You see profits where other people see financial disaster. You’re dreamers. Business owners are the greatest people I know. You invest your heart and your soul and your money and your time into taking your dream and making it a reality. And you do it every day. Some days are successful and some days are not as successful. But you do it and that is an amazing thing.
This year’s winners were:
Ambassador Award: ProJet Aviation, for promoting a positive image of the town as a business location and tourist destination through its support of the Leesburg Airshow, active involvement in business and tourism events, and its creation of the Loudoun Aviation Education and Career Expo.
Community Steward Award: The Painted Tiger Art Studio, for going beyond the daily routine of its work to assist others by teaching children to create art and then auctioning the works to raise money for area charities.
Environmental Award: Loudoun Habitat’s ReStore, for benefiting the environment in its business and policies and improving the green nature of the town through its reuse and recycling of donated homes goods.
Heritage Award: Lightfoot Restaurant, in recognition of its long-term commitment to protecting the integrity and character of Leesburg’s historic district for its preservation of the 1888 People’s Bank Building and its operation of a destination dining experience.
Home-based Business Award: Kim Fields and Happy Pets Petsitting for demonstration innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.
Innovations Award: Omnilert, in recognition of its life-saving text alert system that helps organizations react quickly and comprehensively to emergency situations.
New Business Award: The Clay and Metal Loft, for establishing an extensive list of community outreach programs since it opened in February 2017.
Public Art Award: Tom O’Neil, for his leadership as chairman of the Leesburg Commission on Public Art.
Veteran’s Affairs Award: Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, for its efforts to provide immediately financial aid and career training for severely wounded veterans facing crisis.
An emotional highlight of the program was the presentation of the Rising Star Award to the Cowbell Kitchen Bakery. The award winner is selected by the town Economic Development Commission to highlight a business that brings something special to the town. While the selection of Cowbell was unanimous, the award presentation came just weeks after the death of co-owner KK Brady.
“We share in the grief and heartbreak of her family and friends and express our sorrow and condolences to all who knew KK,” EDC Chairman Eric Byrd said. “At Cowbell Kitchen she was doing what she loved to do: Bringing joy and wonderful food to others.”
Byrd said the award should celebrate KK Bradley’s passion and positive energy. “We honor what she and [founder] Cheryl [Straser] have accomplished and wish the best to the whole Cowbell Kitchen family.”