Milton H. “Woody” Woodside announced his plans step down as president of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce nearly a year ago. Woodside said then he was retiring from the post he had held for 34 years to spend more time with his family and friends.
Friends, colleagues, elected officials and industry representatives recently packed the Brunswick Country Club to bid him farewell. Although many dignitaries made speeches, it was mostly a time of handshakes and hugs, farewells and see-you-laters, that made for a bittersweet, but pleasant, evening.
Over the course of his reign, Woodside always had a supportive wing-person by his side. Every year, the chamber board of directors elects a new chairperson, and it is this person who most closely assists the president with the mission of the organization.
Mason Waters, the regional president of United Community Bank, is one such former chairperson. Waters said had Woodside not chosen to serve the community through the chamber, he would have found another way. Waters speculated that Woodside might have become a scientist, a victims’ rights attorney or a mechanic.
“Why do I think that? Because Woody liked to fix things,” Waters said, whether it’s helping with a safety issue near a school, reaching out to Washington, D.C., and Atlanta on behalf of area residents, or literally building bridges, Woodside was the man to go to.
Waters also recalled one of Woodside’s well-known quirks.
“I’ve had occasion to send folks to see Woody that had an issue that I thought he would have some insight,” Waters said. “I would prep them with the following — ‘at some point when you are talking to Woody, he’s going to pick up the phone and start dialing while you are in mid-sentence. Don’t be offended. Woody just starts working on your issue immediately.’ He knows someone (who) knows someone and he is going to fix it.”
Catina Tindall, owner of First Coast Benefit Solutions, has also served as a board chairperson for the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce. Tindall said the former chamber head had the ability to bring people together.
“Woody always understood that relationships are the starting point to good work in any community,” she said. “Whether he is introducing you to a new business owner or a person you ‘should know,’ Woody is to thank for many of the critical connections we have made not only in our business but personal friendships that will last for years to come.”
Mildred Wilcox, a community leader and the retired former owner of Left Bank Art Gallery, has a deep friendship of many years with Woodside. Among the qualities of his she values are his friendliness, his nonstop energy and his heart. She cites his sincerity and selflessness as two qualities that set him apart from the pack, along with his dependability, and the fact that he genuinely cares about the chamber’s mission to support the success of the local business economy.
“No one has loved this beautiful part of the world so well, or worked more diligently to preserve its essence,” she said. “All of us are indebted to Woody who has served the chamber with heart and soul …”
Mel Baxter, retired president of United Community Bank, has a unique perspective on serving the community with Woodside. After leaving the banking industry, he was chosen to lead the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority as its executive director, a position which lasted for several years.
“ … You don’t get to the level of success that Woody achieved with just a couple of good qualities,” Baxter said. “But, If I am pressed, I would have to say it was his overwhelming desire to get it right no matter what the task. He wanted every detail to be just right and he knew how to work with the right people to make it happen.”
Jeff Bennett, current chairman of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, and a real estate appraiser with Collins & Associates, has worked with Woodside through through the chamber’s transitional year, while a search was being conducted for its new president.
“ … He (Woodside) has an unwavering love for Brunswick and the Golden Isles that allows him to do everything in his power to do what is best for the community,” Bennett said, adding that Woodside acts selflessly and does not seek credit for his actions. “He has been at the center of so many issues and has been able to bring the right people together to ensure that Glynn County is well taken care of … Whether it be the building the Sidney Lanier Bridge to helping an individual seeking a business license, no job is too big or too small.”