First Citizen of Hampton Roads

First Citizen of Hampton Roads
First Citizen of Hampton Roads
First Citizen of Hampton Roads
Bryan K. Stephens Awards G. Robert Aston, Jr. the 2021 First Citizen of Hampton Roads Award.

G. Robert Aston, Jr. is the 2021 First Citizen of Hampton Roads.  The Hampton Roads Chamber selected the Founder and Executive Chairman of TowneBank for his dedication to the community.  Hampton Roads President and CEO Bryan K. Stephens presented the award to Aston.  "Bob Aston epitomizes the most desirous traits and characteristics of a business and civic leader.  The philanthropic culture he has established at TowneBank is emblematic of what all businesses should strive to achieve.”

Aston graciously received the award on December 16 at the Bravo! Celebration of Leadership.  “What you don’t see is behind the curtain.  My wife, Cindy, and my family.  My kids thought dinner time was 9 pm.”  Aston went on to praise the 2800 members of the TowneBank family.  “Our culture is strong and is a culture of caring.”

Bob Aston founded TowneBank more than 20 years ago as a community bank to help residents and businesses.  TowneBank has steadily grown over the last two decades.  During the pandemic, TowneBank helped keep the local economy moving by providing PPP loans so businesses in Hampton Roads could continue to pay their employees.  With Bob Aston's leadership, TowneBank has grown from a community bank into a community pillar. 

Bob Aston and his colleagues started TowneBank in 1998 in his garage in Portsmouth. Their dedication to the community and focus on donating time and talents to local organizations helped TowneBank grow exponentially.  In 2021, Forbes named TowneBank the #16 Best Bank in America.  The First Citizen of the Year award honors the man behind TowneBank.  “For me, life has always been a team sport.  I accept this honor on behalf of all those who helped along the way.”

The Hampton Roads Chamber selects The First Citizen of the Year to recognize an individual from greater Hampton Roads who has demonstrated exceptional regional leadership.  The award honors a courageous and visionary individual whose tireless efforts have helped lead the 17 communities of Hampton Roads into greater partnership, collaboration, and prosperity. Stephens summed up why Aston was the choice for 2021.  “Bob richly deserves this most prestigious award.  Our region is much better because of him.”

During Bravo! A Celebration of Leaders, the chamber honored three more dignitaries for their selfless service to the business community.

Congressman Bobby Scott received the Regional Statesman Award.  Scott builds bridges and reaches across the aisle to serve the constituents of Virginia best.  He consistently displays the epitome of class and carries himself as a gentleman.

Doug Smith, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Alliance, received the 2021 Visionary Award.  Smith was honored for his work the year to pull together leaders, resources, and ideas to generate the plan for the region to survive the pandemic and thrive.

James Carroll, Executive Director, SBDC of Hampton Roads, and VP Small Business, Hampton Roads Chamber, received the Julian Hirst Award for his small business leadership through the pandemic. 

The LEAD 757 Class of 2021 received their plaques to commemorate the completion of their 6-month program. The LEAD 757 curriculum gives participants a backstage pass to what is happening in Hampton Roads.  They learn from the region's leaders and receive hands-on leadership development.  LEAD 757 also helps build social capital to advance careers and enrich lives.  To apply for LEAD757 class of 2022, visit

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