Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO, will be honored as the “Nonno” Tony Smecca Galvestonian of the Year at the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 178th Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 28, 2023, at the Galveston Island Convention Center. The Galvestonian of the Year award is presented to an individual who has positively contributed to the betterment of the Galveston region business community.

Rees oversees the fourth most popular cruise port in North America and one of the nation’s top 50 cargo ports. This self-sustaining city entity generates more than 14,000 jobs and has an estimated annual state economic impact of $2.1 billion.

Since Rees took the helm in January 2018, the Port of Galveston has expanded its business, improved the port’s financial position, and developed and implemented a 20-year Strategic Master Plan. Most recently, the port opened a $125 million cruise terminal through a public-private partnership with Royal Caribbean International and is in discussions to build a fourth terminal in partnership with MSC Cruises. Other master plan projects in development include the West Port Cargo Complex and internal roadway to alleviate traffic on Harborside Drive.

“The Port of Galveston continues to be an expanding force in the regional economy. Under Rodger’s leadership, the Port has experienced major accomplishments and growth in our region. His expertise and experience to building strong relationships within the industry is second to none and we are lucky to have him in our community,” said Gina M. Spagnola, president and chief executive officer of the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“All of the progress we’ve made in the last five years is thanks to our dedicated port staff, visionary Wharves Board and committed port partners. This chamber award is dedicated to them. None of this would be possible without their hard work to bring our citizen-owned port to its full potential,” Rees said.

The award, named after iconic island businessman and community supporter, “Nonno” Tony Smecca, will be officially presented at the 178th Annual Meeting “Back to Detroit City” featuring The Four Tops on Saturday, January 28, 2023, from 6:30pm – 11pm, at the Galveston Island Convention Center.

Other Honorees to be Recognized
The Christie Mitchell Beachcomber Award, which was created by George P. Mitchell in honor of his brother Christie, recognizes individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations that promote the Island as much as Christie Mitchell did. This award will go to the Moody Foundation.

The H. Rudy Teichman Maritime Wheel of Excellence will be presented to the Galveston Texas City Pilots.

The Economic Impact Award will go to Royal Caribbean International.

The Regional Impact Award, presented to a business who has the most impact in the region,
will go to AMOCO Federal Credit Union for their support in chambers of commerce throughout the region.

Kevin Venable of AMOCO Federal Credit Union will receive the Individual Regional Impact Award, awarded to an individual who has the most impact on the region.

The Business Impact Award goes to Marie Robb, Councilwoman, District 6.

The Vic Pierson C-Crewe Award, named for Vic Pierson, the inaugural recipient who is also president and CEO of Moody Bank, recognizes an individual’s commitment to fostering the growth of young professionals. Earning this honor is The Bentley Family, Classic Auto Group Galveston.

The President’s Award of Excellence will go to Keith Zahar, The Big Store.

The Chamber’s Grand Champion award goes to The Lasker Inn.

The National Chain Business of the Year will go to Waffle House. The Large Businesses of the Year goes to Sherwin-Williams Company Galveston. The Small Businesses of the Year include Dreyfus Printing, Kleen Supply, and Texas Tail Distillery. The Non-profit Organization of the Year will go to the Ronald McDonald House of Galveston.

Entrepreneurs of the Year include Craig Corbell, CAC Entertainment; Victoria Newsome, EATcetera, and Cole Wallace, The Bin Store.

The Board Member of the Year recipient is Jay Carnes, Carnes Funeral Home. The Committee Member of the Year recipient is Kelly Carnes Johns, Carnes Funeral Home. The Carol and Fred Wurst Navigator of the Year Award honoree is Laura Lee, Sunseekers Bookkeeper. The Young Professional of the Year recipient goes to Bryan Kunz, Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees.

Jay Carnes, 2022 chair of the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce board of directors, will also pass the historic wheel to Steven Conner, chair for 2023.

For more information, visit or contact Jill Chapman, vice president of events and sponsorship for the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce at (409) 763-5326 or by email at