Guests honor president and CEO at farewell party
By Kalea Hall
The night ended with a standing ovation.
It started with the man of the hour, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber President Tom Humphries, greeting guests at the entrance to his farewell party at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center.
Humphries smiled and talked with the guests – many his friends, some his acquaintances, but all there in dapper attire to celebrate him.
He didn’t know what toasts or roasts would be given, but he was humble in just seeing the 300 guests walk through the door.
In fact, he didn’t see the night as just about him.
“It’s a night to say thank you to the community,” he said. “Thanks for working with me. Thanks for allowing me to challenge the system.”
Humphries will retire at year’s end, and James Dignan, former commander at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, will succeed him.
“We recognize all the efforts Tom has [made],” Dignan said. “As we are going through the program, everyone wants to toast and no one wants to roast.”
This is what Humphries is known for after 20 years of leading the chamber. As far as what might be considered the roasts of the night, he’s also a bit of a fast driver and likes a neat environment.
“He just has an ability to get people to work together,” said Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, the host of the night. “He’s just one of those guys who rallies people for the good.”
Humphries is the first one to work and the last one to leave. He is a data guy – someone who will come to a meeting with stacks of numbers to back up what he has to say, and he ends those meetings with his signature wink and a smile.
Past chamber board chairwoman Atty. Martha Bushey of Manchester, Newman & Bennett used to have to review Humphries’ schedule and approve expenses.
“It was astounding,” Bushey said of the schedule. “He was always involved in some type of meeting. His schedule is jam-packed every day.”
Those meetings helped Humphries’ to be a trusted leader in the business world of the Mahoning Valley, and elsewhere.
Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future, explained how Humphries has been an “incredible force” behind his power plant project in Lordstown.
“Today, if you drive down [state] Route 45, it’s now underway and should be up and running in May,” Siderewicz said.
The power plant is a $900 million investment, and Clean Energy plans to build a second plant with the same value of investment.
Humphries, who served in the Air Force during Vietnam and volunteered to be deployed twice, also helped to keep investment at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.
While commander, Dignan went to Humphries for help and Humphries came back and formed the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission in 2015 “to preserve and promote the value of military operations between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, with an emphasis on the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center,” according to the chamber’s website.
Many speakers at the event noted Humphries’ efforts in supporting the air base, among other accomplishments.
“You will always be one of the founding members who renewed the Mahoning Valley,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, in a video toast.
Humphries noted that in 20 years with the chamber, which represents 2,600 companies as one of Ohio’s largest chambers, he has seen 24,000 new jobs come to the Valley.
The accomplishment came with the people he had beside him – his family, his staff and his partners in the community.
“We worked to get there,” he said. “If it weren’t for you, we could not do this right. There’s a lot of dedicated people. It would not get done without you.”
And then the crowd stood to applaud before Bo Wagner and the Bo Wagner Orchestra played Frank Sinatra to cap off the night and a career.