At the beginning of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, Mt. Tabor First Baptist Church’s pastor, the Rev. Karl N. Flagg, blessed the food, meeting and community. It’s a familiar role for Flagg, a Putnam County product whose faith is interwoven with his church, business and public service.
It wasn’t the only time Flagg would have the room’s attention Thursday night.
Flagg, a former mayor of Palatka and Putnam County commissioner, was honored as the Chamber’s Bob Hudson Award winner.
St. Johns River State College President Joe Pickens spoke about Flagg before presenting him the honor. Pickens said he asked Flagg’s daughter to describe her father.
“I asked his daughter to describe his business philosophy. She said, ‘He serves with compassionate care and unconditional love, without discrimination, to all,” Pickens said. “That describes how Karl has lived his life.”
Flagg has been a leader in Putnam County since his time as a high school student at Central High School, where he served as the senior and junior class president and was an honor graduate in 1977. He was a licensed youth minister by 11. He was installed as pastor of Mt. Tabor First Baptist Church in 1991, a role he continues to serve more than 25 years later.
He is the funeral director and chief executive officer at Karl N. Flagg Serenity Memorial Chapel.
Flagg served as Palatka’s mayor for 10 years and served one term at a Putnam County commissioner. Prior to being elected mayor, Flagg was a city commissioner.
“It’s a humbling honor,” Flagg said. “Of course, I’ve always viewed myself as a team player, and always viewed myself as a teammate who wants us to win. The team is Putnam County.
“If there’s such a thing as being at Ground Zero, I’m definitely there. I’m definitely humbled and amazingly shocked.”
Flagg has served with numerous community boards and organizations. He is the recipient of the state Governor’s Points of Light awarded by Gov. Jeb Bush, as well as the President’s Points of Light awarded by President George H.W. Bush.
The Chamber of Commerce debuted a new award, the Wes Larson Living Legacy Award. Larson was the longtime Chamber of Commerce president who worked to develop rural economic development law in Florida. The first winner of the award was Ben Bates of Coldwell Banker, who received the honor from presenter state Rep. Bobby Payne.
“(Like Wes Larson), Ben is also an outstanding advocate for our community,” Payne said.
The Chamber of Commerce also celebrated its 5-star accreditation as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Southeast Region Manager Clark Thomason awarded the honor to chamber officials.
Other honorees included Don Holmes of Holmes and Young PA as the Chamber Good Guy Award, Steve Overturf of Johnson-Overturf Funeral Homes as the Chamber Volunteer of the Year and Derek Hembree of Clay Electric as the Board Member of the Year.