Some selections are just easy.
Fernando Verdree says picking Carmen Cavezza as the recipient of the Alpha Phi Alpha Unity Award was one of those.
"I can't think of anyone who more embodies the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. than Carmen Cavezza," Verdree said. "His record of public service is just outstanding."
Verdree was the man in charge of the 27th Annual Alpha Phi Alpha Unity Award Breakfast that was attended by around 850 people Monday morning in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
Verdree, who was on the award-selection committee, said he served for 12 years on the city's Economic Development Authority with Cavezza, whom he said was always the "calming force."
Cavezza, 75, is a retired lieutenant general and former commander at Fort Benning. He retired in 1994, having served 33 years in the Army. He earned two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
He has served as the executive director of the Columbus 1996 Support Committee, an Olympic softball organization, and executive director of the Greater Columbus Sports and Events Council. He became the Columbus city manager in 1997, and in 2005 took the job of executive director of Columbus State University's Cunningham Center for Leadership Development. He is currently chairman of the National Infantry Foundation's Board of Directors.
Cavezza told the audience that he is not surprised very often, but winning this award surprised him.
"I am shocked," he said, later calling the award "humbling."
Some past recipients have been Judge Bobby Peters, former Columbus State University President Frank Brown and Judge Michael Bellamy. Cavezza was presented the award by last year's recipient, Columbus Mayor Pro-Tem Evelyn Turner Pugh.
After the breakfast, Cavezza said that public service has been his entire life.
"It is what I feel comfortable with," he said, adding he feels good about what has been accomplished in Columbus, much of it because of public/private partnerships.
He recalled first coming to Columbus as a young second lieutenant at Fort Benning,
"Back then, if you had told me I would someday choose to live in Columbus, I would have said 'you are crazy,' but I am proud to call Columbus home," he added.
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlnson praised the choice of Carvezza, calling him the city's valuable "utility player."
"He has served Columbus in a significant way," Tomlinson said.
She said that Cavezza has had a hand in practically every significant achievement of the city in recent years.
"We are fortunate to have Carmen Cavezza," Tomlinson said, "and he is a great choice for this award."
The mayor was mentioned by guest speaker Bishop James. E. Swanson Sr. of Mississippi as an example of change. Swanson, who used to be pastor here at St. Mary's Road United Methodist Church, noted that Columbus now has a woman mayor and Phenix City has just elected Eddie Lowe, the city's first black mayor. He also mentioned Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, the first black garrison commander at Fort Benning, who was seated at the head table.
Encouraging people to act, Swanson said that despite those positive changes, there are still people in Columbus who don't have running water and that is a concern.
"Poverty has no color," he said.
Swanson said everybody's help is needed to "become the kind of community God wants us to have."