The following article and photo appear courtesy of The Franklin Times. The original may be viewed here.
LOUISBURG - When Dr. Mark La Branche took over Louisburg College in 2008, he was looking to move the college into greener pastures.
That journey and his leadership and community service has led the two-year Methodist-affiliated college into prosperity.
His footprints, though, haven't just been on the college's campus.
He has taken his service to the community, most notably through the United Way of Franklin County, helping establish funding for Safe Space, Meals on Wheels, the Boys and Girls Club, Care and Share and many other programs.
Because of his efforts at the college and in the community, the Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce recognized him as its Citizen of the Year during its annual banquet in the Green Hill Ballroom on Jan. 16.
"This is humbling," said La Branche, noting that he figured something was up when his children came in from out of town for the chamber's annual banquet.
"This is the sixth year that my wife and I have been here and we have absolutely fallen in love with Franklin County," he said. "We believe in it."
And he said Louisburg College can play a vital role for Franklin County, through educating and preparing students for the business and industry in the area.
"... The days ahead for Franklin are bright," he said. "We hope to be part of that for a long time.
"Looking around," he said of the ballroom filled with business leaders from all corners of the county, "we have all we need.
"Franklin County will continue to grow and prosper."
La Branche wasn't the only person honored during the chamber's annual banquet.
Sheriff Jerry Jones, whose deputies take part in the Shop with a Sheriff program, has helped the United Way of Franklin County with a number of fundraisers, including its Jail-A-Thon, and other community projects, also received a Helping Hands Award.
"This is a special night for me," Jones said. "I'm here with my hero."
The banquet was concluded with the installation of Charles Early as the chamber's new chairman.
"This chamber has had strong leadership," he said. "It's had great leadership.
"I'm not going to do a lot of things differently," he said. "This chamber is filled with strong, dynamic leaders. We'll work to retain members and put together a vision committee and, maybe, put together plans for three and five years out.
"There is a lot going on with the chamber," he said, "and I'm proud to be here."