Jean Milstead worked at Douglas County Bank for 34 years, but that’s not how she thought it was going to work out.
“I thought I was going to be there a year,” Milstead said at Wednesday evening’s induction ceremony for the Junior Achievement Lawrence Business Hall of Fame.
Larry McElwain laughed and said he could relate.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to survive a year,” he said of the early days when he ran Warren-McElwain Mortuary.
Both survived and thrived and were part of a class of four new inductees in the Lawrence Business Hall of Fame. Milstead and McElwain were joined by longtime city commissioner and barbershop owner Mike Amyx and Miles Schnaer, owner of Crown Toyota Volkswagen.
“They’re all good businesspeople and good community people too,” Ernesto Hodison, chair of the Business Hall of Fame committee, said of this year’s class. “That is really what a community is looking for.”
Amyx was honored for not only owning a longtime family-held business — Amyx Barber Shop dates back to 1942 — but also for community service that includes six terms as Lawrence mayor and time on the Douglas County Commission.
“It has been quite a ride,” said Amyx, who chose not to seek re-election to the City Commission this year. “The reason I’m here is because of the customers I’ve had, the voters, the friends, and my family.”
Schnaer has been in the Lawrence auto business for 23 years. He said he’s learned a lot about how Lawrence takes care of businesses that show they care about the community. He remembers a man coming into his dealership about two years after it opened and declaring that “we are going to start supporting you because we can tell you are good people.”
“I never knew who he meant when he said ‘we,’ but they sure have supported us,” Schnaer said. “Lawrence is a great town that way.”
McElwain, who now is the president and CEO of the Lawrence chamber of commerce, agreed. He said he always was appreciative that the community took to a young businessman who grew up in Wichita.
“I don’t feel like you have to be born here to be a leader here,” McElwain said. “No one knew who I was, but they gave me a chance.”
Milstead also came to the community, having previously worked in banking in her native Illinois. She learned about the community through a long list of volunteer stints, a trait shared by all of the inductees.
“People’s lives really can be enriched if you just say yes when you are asked to help,” she said. “The rewards are tremendous.”
Wednesday’s event at the Lawrence DoubleTree hotel served as a fundraiser for Junior Achievement, which provides financial literacy classes in area schools. All four inductees will be added to the Hall of Fame display that is housed in the Lawrence Public Library.