By Carol Vaughn —
George N. McMath was named 2020 Champion of Economic Development in a ceremony Friday in Onley.
The award, given by the Accomack County Economic Development Authority, recognized McMath’s decades of service to the Eastern Shore.
Speakers noted his lifetime of service as a newspaper owner, a Virginia delegate, and a volunteer who has helped raised millions of dollars in capital campaigns for health centers and the chamber of commerce, among many other achievements.
“This is a gentleman who has given many years, hours, (and) days… and had the insight to look to the future of Accomack County for economic development. …He is just a remarkable man,” said Stella Rohde, EDA chairwoman.
Robie Marsh, executive director of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, called McMath “Mr. Eastern Shore.”
“When you need something or want something to be accomplished, that’s enormous or even seems impossible, you call George,” Marsh said.
Among other accomplishments, Marsh mentioned McMath’s role in founding the Eastern Shore Christian Businessmen’s Association.
Additionally, McMath over the years received several awards from the chamber of commerce, including being named Small Business Person of the Year in 1987; receiving the Distinguished Service award in 1989; and being named Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 1995.
Marsh spoke about McMath’s impact on him personally.
“He has taught me the importance of a thank you note and how a simple letter can truly spark great encouragement,” he said, adding lessons he learned from McMath “helped me to grow into the business person I am today.”
Jeff Holland, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, said to McMath, “Number one, you take ownership. When you agree to take on a task, you take ownership.”
He noted McMath served as president of the Eastern Shore Community College Board of Directors twice and, as a delegate, advocated in the General Assembly for resources for the college.
Del. Rob Bloxom said McMath during his time in the General Assembly “would always focus on education and the Eastern Shore.”
“I can’t remember any function on the Eastern Shore that George wasn’t a part of,” he said.
Bill Sterling, who worked for McMath at the Eastern Shore News, spoke about the growth of Atlantic Publications under McMath’s ownership from two newspapers to 32 newspapers in five states and to 225 employees.
“In the 15 years I worked for George, I never saw him lose his temper or raise his voice,” Sterling said, adding, “…The motto of the company was ‘Community Papers that Care,’ and his newspapers always reflected that.”
Sterling concluded, saying, “I often thank George, not for giving me a job that led to an enjoyable career and enriched my life, but I always thank him for setting an example for how to treat people and how to serve your community — because in my opinion, no one has done that better than George McMath.”