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Pastor and business leader in Atwater

ATWATER -- Pastor Rick Pruitt is a man of the church, but Thursday he became Atwater's top businessman as well.

Pruitt was named president of Atwater's Chamber of Commerce by the group's board of directors. For 18 years, Pruitt has been senior pastor at Liberty Fellowship Church, where he's helped bring people from all walks of life together.

The 53-year-old Atwater resident plans to use his skills as a church leader in his new role at the chamber.

"It is unusual for a pastor to be the president of a chamber of commerce," Pruitt said. "But running a church is like running a business. You have employees. You have profit and loss. You have property to deal with. You're serving the people of your congregation."

Pruitt stressed he's not going to use the new position to expand his church. "I'm not trying to turn the chamber into another church. It's not about church, it's not about religion," he said. "It's about helping the businesses succeed in our community."

Craig Mooneyham, the outgoing president, said Pruitt was selected because of his strong leadership abilities.

"He's been active in the chamber for many years," Mooneyham said. "He's taken part in every event, almost always in a leadership roll. He's a go-to guy, and he can get things done. He's not afraid of a challenge. That's the strong leadership that everyone thought of when nominating a new president."

Pruitt will be expected to expand the network of Atwater businesses, involve himself in local events and in any community issues related to business.

Pruitt has been a board member of the chamber for two years and has helped with community events such as Atwater's Octoberfest craft fair and Christmas fair.

When the chance came to be chamber president he gladly accepted.

"I felt like I could make a difference and help," Pruitt said. "The past presidents have done a great job laying the foundation, and I will be able to build upon that foundation."

Felicia Roberts, choir teacher at Liberty Fellowship Church, said Pruitt's ability to bring people together will be a great asset in his work at the chamber. "He has brought together the blacks, whites and Hispanics of our community already through our church," Roberts said. "Now he can use those skills to help build up the businesses of the community."

Pruitt is a giving man, Roberts said. He's made his church available to other church groups and has been the host for numerous charity functions for people in need of clothes and food.

His daughter, Robyn Baptista, described Pruitt as caring, supportive and helpful. She thinks her dad's drive will help him succeed as chamber president.

"He wants to see everyone succeed," Baptista said. "He wants everyone to do the best they can do, and he helps them to get there."

Aside from being a pastor and businessman, Pruitt joked that in his free time he enjoys sleeping.

Reporter Samuel Cosby can be reached at (209)385-2484 or

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