Ocean City’s “Citizen of the Year,” as awarded by the Regional Chamber of Commerce, went to Carrie Merritt (second from right) with members of the Chamber staff, including (from left) Marketing Director Shawnda Lindsay, Chamber employee Justin Juliano, Executive Director Michele Gillian and Events Coordinator Mimi Cottrell. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Rumer) By TIM KELLYFor many Ocean City businesses, an entire year’s efforts are compressed into a prime season of just three months. As a result, Ocean City takes business very seriously.Well, except for one night each year.The Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce took a time-out on Tuesday to celebrate some of the town’s many business superstars, and for its member businesses to celebrate each other. The annual dinner took place in the packed main ballroom of the Flanders Hotel.Carrie Merritt, an Ocean City teacher, entrepreneur, athletic trainer, mentor – among many other active roles in the community – was named the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year.During a text exchange before the event, she turned the accolades away from herself and told of making the award a teachable moment for her first grade students in the Ocean City Primary School. For a writing project, Merritt asked the students to imagine being named Citizen of the Year and to discuss ways in which they might make Ocean City an even better place to live.Merritt, Cape May County’s Teacher of the Year, also asked the students to be creative with their work and to have fun.The kids took it to heart. “Being Citizen of the Year would be easy for me,” one child wrote confidently. “I would hand out chocolate 365 days a year.” Others stated they would promote friendship, help their peers and volunteer to help the less fortunate.“I can’t believe I’m Citizen of the Year,” a student penned. But Merritt got them thinking about by turning the spotlight away from herself and helping the students understand what being a good citizen means: “Following rules, being responsible and helping others,” she told them.Merritt’s wife, Lisa Rumer, had suggested that a reporter should look at the Facebook Page and the students’ work.“Great Idea,” Merritt replied, “I’d rather talk about my kids any day of the week than myself.”No need, as the Chamber’s membership sang her praises all evening.From left, Sally Huff, Rose and George Savastano, Janie and Scott Halliday, previous Citizen of the Year Drew Fasy, Assemblyman-elect Antwan McClellan, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michele Gillian and Mayor Jay Gillian.As an educator, Merritt was a finalist for the New Jersey statewide Teacher of the Year, and won the 2016 Healthy Educator of the Year award from AtlantiCare. She is strength and conditioning coach and athletic trainer for many of the Red Raiders’ sports teams.Merritt was on a committee that crafted the “We Rock” Ocean City schools initiative, which strives to empower faculty and staff, students and the community by getting the groups together and instilling in students the realization they do matter and each child can make a difference.As an entrepreneur, she runs a personal training business, TLC Performance. She’s an endurance athlete herself, participating in numerous distance running and triathlon events. Merritt’s not content to just participate. She serves on the Ocean City Half Marathon and Race Event Series committees and coordinates an army of volunteers to help the events run like clockwork.Merritt says that all of her physical education, therapy and athletic training endeavors center around a simple but powerful philosophy: “My belief is to help model, then motivate (the premise that) fitness and wellness are a tool to help foster a positive attitude, positive self-image, emotional and mental wellness, and (finding ways for people) to challenge themselves to be successful.”She’s certainly a role model in that regard. She can be seen literally running all over town, and bustling about the public schools working with her students and student-athletes.Merritt sometimes slows down long enough to stop at a local café to sip one of her numerous daily cups of coffee. In addition to being a wife, she is the mom of a son, TJ.Ocean City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor, standing, far right, is joined by members of the Board of Education and school administration.In her remarks during the Chamber ceremony Merritt said, “Many of my happiest childhood memories are of my time spent in Ocean City. (The city) has given me delight, contentment and fulfillment. Thank you Ocean City for helping me to realize and cultivate my calling.”Prior to Merritt’s award, the evening kicked off with Chamber of Commerce President Dave Allegretto’s welcoming comments and the introduction of dignitaries in attendance by Chamber Executive Director Michele Gillian. That duo also presided over the other night’s awards:Outstanding New Businesses: Arnie’s Butcher Shop, Dead End Bake Shop, Dry IslandBusiness Renovation/Improvement: Bowfish Kids, Bungalow Bowls – Boardwalk, OC Escape Adventure GamesBest Website/Outstanding Use of Technology: Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, We Make it PersonalOutstanding Landscaping/Signage: Hearth & Sole, Sifting SandsOutstanding Service to the Community: Cathy Finnegan, Seagull Abatement ProgramNew Construction: Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach, Express Pizza, Interiors by Joann, Tuckahoe InnOutstanding Civic, Community Non-Profit Organization: Ocean City Tabernacle Son ClubMembers of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors team are honored by Cape May County Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, Mayor Jay Gillian and Chamber Executive Director Michele Gillian.The Chamber also recognized a number of businesses and organizations celebrating milestone anniversaries. These included, from oldest to most recent: Ocean City Tabernacle, 140 years; Ocean City Board of Realtors and St. John’s Lutheran Church, 100; Boyar’s Market, 95; Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, 90; Charlie’s Restaurant, 75; Night in Venice 65; and Varsity Inn and Sack O Subs, 50.Also, Halliday-Leonard Contractors, 40; Fox Real Estate, 35; Hobby Horse Ice Cream Parlor, 25; Inn the Gardens Bed & Breakfast, 20; Harbor Outfitters, OCNJ Half Marathon and Ocean City Magazine, 10; and Yoga Ginger, 5.The event also featured the presentation of colors and Pledge of Allegiance to the flag by members of Boy Scout Troop 32 of Ocean City, and the singing of the National Anthem by Julia Mary Wilson.All in all, it was an outstanding night of fun and comradery by and for our business community. And, now, it’s back to work.