Q&A with Tom Brightman

July 9, 2014 

Tom Brightman

City of Residence: Kathleen

Occupation: Businessman-entrepreneur

QUESTION: How long have you been involved with the Warner Robins Noon Optimist Club?

ANSWER: I got involved about four years ago when a friend, Kelly Burke, asked me to a regular Thursday noon lunch meeting at the Ole Times Country Buffet on Russell Parkway. I went and thought it was a good operation and continued on with it. Since then, I’ve been on the board for two years and am president this year.

QUESTION: What’s Optimist’s purpose?

ANSWER: The theme of the club is being a friend to youth. We focus on kids between elementary school and college and have some pretty specific programs here in Houston County. Even so, we’ve adopted Pearl Stevens Elementary School and help them with projects and funds. One of the programs I enjoy the most is reading to kids there and getting to see the world of reading and all it can open up to them. I get a lot of satisfaction from that.

QUESTION: What do you do with older students?

ANSWER: We recognize student achievement through a student of the month program with Northside, Warner Robins, Houston County and Veterans high schools. We also give scholarships to students of the year from each school every year. The amount depends on available funds. We look at academics plus extra-curricular activities and community service. It’s a way to encourage students right now for the future.

QUESTION: Other youth programs?

ANSWER: Several, but a big one is the annual Optimist Bowl. It was instigated in the ‘50s by Dr. V.W. McEver as a way to buy much needed uniforms and equipment for area pee-wee football teams. At the time they were having to trade off shoulder pads and stuff between games. It’s where county teams have their championship and consolation games.

QUESTION: How about other community service?

ANSWER: Among other things we recognize an outstanding law enforcement officer from each of the county’s law enforcement agencies. We do that in May during National Law Enforcement Appreciation Month. We’re really proud to do it and also make a donation in their honor to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.

QUESTION: When did the club begin?

ANSWER: In 1951 -- 63 years ago. It’s the longest continuously operating civic club in Warner Robins. We’ve done the Optimist Bowl continuously for 56 years. Something else we do is recognize an outstanding member each year. This year it’s Gene Miller who’s been with Noon Optimists since 1983. We made it a lifetime achievement award for Gene and his 31 years of service.

QUESTION: It’s an old club, are most members older?

ANSWER: Not really. One of the things I like about the group is the diversity of people and various ages. In the last couple of years, we’ve re-grown and doubled to about 30 members. There are people in their 20s and there are retirees; a number of military retirees. There are people from all sorts of careers. We welcome everyone and there’s a place for everyone. Even though we’re an old, established club, we’re open to new ideas and input from new people about how to do what we do. That’s one of the things that keeps us going.

QUESTION: So civic and service clubs aren’t passé?

ANSWER: Not a bit. I think they’re more and more necessary. But we do need young people -- like the students we serve--to see the importance of stepping up and serving others for the sake of their community and others around them. There’s that, plus just good camaraderie working together and making friendships.

QUESTION: What brought you to Warner Robins?

ANSWER: I moved here from New Orleans and started work at Robins Air Force Base in 1989 after getting an electrical engineering degree. I was the main radar engineer for J-STARS. I eventually started a home-building business and then left the base in 2001 and started several other businesses. I’ve just pursued the economic liberty we still have in this country.

QUESTION: How can people get involved with Noon Optimists?

ANSWER: Contact a member, come to a Thursday meeting, call me at (478) 952-9244 -- there are lots of ways and you’re always welcome.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.

Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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