The Kiwanis Club of Fort Oglethorpe for the past eight years has chosen outstanding individuals as recipients of the club’s Distinguished Service Award.

“It’s our way of saying ‘thank you’ to those who go above and beyond to provide service to our community,” Kiwanis president Dwight Watt said on June 10.

Unlike years past, where two awards were made — one for Walker and another for Catoosa counties — sole recipient for 2015 is state Sen. Jeff Mullis.

Mullis serves both counties as their 53rd Congressional District representative in the Georgia legislature. First elected to the Senate in 2000, now in his seventh two-year term, Mullis chairs the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Music Committee and The Halls of Fame Joint Committee. He also is a member of the Appropriations, Economic Development and Tourism and the Regulated Industries and Utilities committees. He also is chairman emeritus of the Sportsman Caucus.

The senator has been recognized by “Georgia Trend” magazine as one the “100 Most Influential People in Georgia” for seven consecutive years and by “James” magazine as one of the “most influential political leaders in Georgia” for eight straight years.

Though he has titles and honors aplenty, most attending the awards luncheon know him simply as “Jeff” or “senator” or “friend.”

That was certainly the case for Chip Catlett, local businessman and civic leader, who told of his first encounter with Mullis when both were elementary school classmates.

Catlett said he was new to the school and approached a group of boys huddled together in the shade of a big tree. They were playing with Matchbox cars, and Catlett recalled Mullis turning, offering him one of the tiny toy cars and asking if he wanted to play with the group.

Catlett said that tree still stands in Chickamauga, he still has that toy car and, to this day, seeing either reminds him of Mullis’ friendliness, friendship and inclusiveness.

Doris White, a Kiwanian and along with Leonard Fant, the 2012 Distinguished Service Award winner, presented this year’s award to Mullis and read a commendation from Gov. Nathan Deal that reads, in part:

“Mullis is an exceptional Georgian …. has had a great positive impact on our state through community involvement, volunteer efforts and his work in the Georgia General Assembly.”

As he prepared to take the podium and deliver a few remarks, Mullis who is recognized for his comedic one-liners and “Mullisism” said, “Y’all are supposed to stand and clap at this point” — which is exactly what the 216 attending the luncheon did.

“I am humbled and honored,” he said. “This is truly an honor and a labor of love.”

Mullis said his parents raised him to know part of a well-lived life is being able to give back to the community and that has always been one of his guiding principles.

“Sen. Mullis is well deserving of this honor,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said via a prerecorded video. “He has changed countless lives for the better.”

Highlights of Sen. Jeff Mullis’ career as politician, public servant and neighbor

· Retail sales before becoming involved in planning and zoning for the City of Fort Oglethorpe and Walker County.

· Volunteer firefighter 1981-2000 with Chickamauga and Walker County and chief of those firefighters 1995-2000.

· Elected to Georgia Senate in 2000.

· Walker County Citizen of the Year for 2012.

· He and his wife Teresa have three children and a granddaughter.

· Resides in Chickamauga and is a member of First Baptist Church of Chickamauga.

· Helped start private initiative called “Top of Georgia” to promote northwest Georgia to private investors and businesses.

· Serves as executive director of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority.