Creech, retired agent with Allstate Insurance, received the Robert W. Varnell Jr. Leadership Award during awards presentations at the 86th Annual Meeting of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
Named for the late Robert W. Varnell Jr., the award recognizes outstanding community leadership and is one of the top honors presented annually by the Chamber of Commerce.
Creech has played an active leadership role in the community since he and his family moved here more than 40 years ago.
As an agent with Allstate Insurance for nearly four decades, he was a “Top Producer” almost every year and earned many awards and accolades.
“With Bill, what you see is what you get — an honest guy you can trust in a pinch,” said Jim Brown, an agent who shared offices with Creech for 35 years. “We had an excellent business relationship.”
Creech was a member of the Bradley County Commission from 1976 to 1992, representing the 7th district.
“Having served 16 years with Bill on the County Commission, I came to know him as a man who not only talked the talk, he walked the walk,” H. Bernard Dixon said.
“Bill brought no personal agenda to the table. He sought for what was reasonable and right. He examined every proposed item and voted as he saw fit, regardless of who proposed it. He made judgments based on the facts.”
Dixon observed Creech not only listened to the people in his district, he saw “the big picture” and took into account what was best for the county as a whole.
“He spent the taxpayers’ money in the same manner he would his own money — carefully and wisely,” Dixon noted. “He had a genuine respect for the people he represented and their concerns.”
On a personal level, Dixon described Creech as a “man of integrity — dependable, reliable and accountable. He held high values both personally and politically.”
Nominator Michael Callaway also remarked about Creech’s service on the County Commission.
“I was impressed with how thoughtful he was, that he was always informed about the issues facing the Commission and that he was neither contrary nor controversial,” Callaway said.
Creech joined the Cleveland Rotary Club in 1989 and “instantly pitched in.” He provided regular help at the annual Chili Day fundraiser, recruited luncheon speakers and served on the board. He chaired for several years on the Scholarship Committee that awarded $3,000 annually to a graduating senior, and heads the club’s popular service program, the Rotary Dictionary Project. This project involves delivering free dictionaries to every third-grader in Bradley County and entails purchasing the dictionaries and recruiting members of the Interact Club to paste labels in each dictionary indicating it is a gift from the Rotary Club. Creech also organizes Rotarians to deliver the dictionaries.
Creech is also a Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Club, giving generously to many international service projects.
Callaway stressed while Creech is devoted to the Rotary Club, his passion now, and for many years, is the Boys & Girls Club.
Col. Jim Tucker, the club’s first executive director, recalls Creech just “showed up asking to get involved.” His first volunteer assignment was as a temporary coach for a pee-wee football team. Ten years later he still coached the youngsters.
Creech has served on the Boys & Girls Club board since 1983 and serves as a member of the Executive Committee, which develops priorities for the club and makes decisions about its operation and future. Sutton credits Creech with bringing 18 new board members, individuals of “influence and affluence,” to the Boys & Girls Club since 2006.
“Bill is hardheaded but completely objective when it comes to the club’s business,” summarized Charlie Sutton, executive director. “But he’s an old softy and a soft touch when it comes to anything involving the kids.”
That “old softy” also has a heart for those older than the children served by the club. Recently Tucker was inducted into the Tennessee Boys & Girls Clubs Hall of Fame. Creech insisted on driving the inductee to the ceremony in Murfreesboro because Tucker is in his 80s and has some health issues. Only later did Tucker discover that Creech learned about his own cancer diagnosis the morning of the trip.
George Gray, now owner of Allstate Insurance, was one of the kids Creech mentored at the Boys & Girls Club. He took Gray into the agency when Gray was only 25 and put him to work. When Jim Brown and Creech decided to sell the business in 2001, they made the deal with Gary on a handshake.
Allstate usually insists that someone with years of experience in the industry purchase a business, Gray explained. He credits Creech with vouching for him with the company.
“Knowing Bill is one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” Gray said. “I never saw him cut a corner, sell a customer a policy he or she didn’t need, lie to a customer or take advantage in any way. He’s an inspiration to me.”
Involvement at First Baptist Church also reflects Creech’s commitment to the community. He regularly attends the Beecher Hunter Senior Adult Sunday School Class, is past president of the 70-member class and entertains class members in his home each year. He is currently a member of the FBC Insurance Committee, a frequent usher and member of the Offertory Team, volunteers to drive church vans on trips, and routinely collects and brings mentally challenged kids to church. He and his wife, Carol, visit and take food to sick or shut-in church members and do a stint each summer cooking for and mentoring kids at the FBC Camp on Lake Ocoee.
Creech also translates his hobby as a Civil War re-enactor to volunteer leadership. He and his wife take time away from re-enacting Civil War battles and skirmishes that occurred in the region to visit local classrooms. There they answer student questions about the characters they portray, the war and history in general.
“Bill Creech has been a conscientious business leader from my earliest memories of civic participation,” state Rep. Kevin Brooks said.
“His willingness to give of himself, give to others and give back to our community is evident in the many organizations that are fortunate to have his involvement. I am grateful for the servant leadership example that he has given to me and to countless others.”
Creech and his wife, Carol, have three children and several grandchildren.
Hunter accepted the Robert W. Varnell Jr. Leadership Award Tuesday evening on behalf of his good friend. Creech was in Florida visiting family after having completed his first round of treatment in a battle against cancer.
Hunter read the following statement from Creech to the selection committee and the Chamber board of directors.
“Please know how touched I am to be consider for such an honor. I don’t feel deserving of this recognition from a community in which there are so many who do so much for the common good.
“It is even more special to me because the award bears the name of Bob Varnell. Our society tosses around the term ‘hero’ loosely. Bit I can affirm that Bob was one of my heroes because of his integrity, his vision, the selflessness he displayed, and his commitment to this community.
“I have always believed that God put us here on earth to serve people, not to be served, and I have tried to do that to the best of my ability.
“My work with the Bradley County Commission, the Boys & Girls Club, coaching, the Rotary Club, the Bradley Healthcare and Rehab board and my church have been labors of love. I have never felt that these were unreasonable demand on my time; in fact, I felt honored to be a part of these activities, because I saw them as opportunities to be able to give back to a community that has been so good to me.
“Always, my inspiration has been my wife, Carol, who has provided wholehearted support, and my children and grandchildren. My desire — and I know it is yours, too — is to leave this world better than I found it, for their sake and that of future generations.
“May God be as good to each of you as He has been to me.”