Making a difference in our community

Last Friday was my first annual awards and luncheon as Napa Chamber president and CEO. The event was important to me for many reasons – it was the first one I have attended in my new position and my first opportunity to put my stamp on an event and to showcase the direction of the Chamber.

It was also bittersweet, because we said goodbye to many of the board members who hired me and also welcomed many new ones. I was delighted to welcome Ken Frank to a second term as board chair as he has been key to the Chamber’s success. We make a good team and I’m looking forward to working with him this year.

Mayor Jill Techel was named 2014 Citizen of the Year. Jill’s leadership efforts after the earthquake are to be commended. She helped to spearhead collaborative efforts to get the city back on track, fought for local resources and conveyed her belief in Napa’s resilience and recovery. We are very fortunate to have Jill as our mayor and a member of our community. Her impact on the city will be evident far into the future.

We also honored RSA+ and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. as the Small and Large Business of the Year, respectively. Look into just about any construction project in Napa and you will discover that RSA+ had something to do with it. Their own buildings were inaccessible after the earthquake, but the team pulled together and the business was ready for employees to return to work on Monday morning. Despite all the damage RSA+ itself suffered, not one of its employees missed a single paid day of work in the aftermath, as they helped others find the help they needed.

PG&E may be a San Francisco-based company, but its presence could be felt everywhere in Napa just hours after the earthquake, as crews hit the streets to make repairs and get the power back on. Within 26 hours, electric service was fully reinstated to the more than 70,000 impacted households. A grateful city presented PG&E with a key to the city on Aug. 29, just days after the quake. With its Business of the Year award, the Chamber now joins the city of Napa in conveying its gratitude.

Will Garcia was named Customer Service Person of the Year, a new category we created this year. Will is the spa operations manager at Silverado Resort and Spa and he epitomizes exceptional customer service. He knows everyone by name and makes everyone feel special.

And finally, at its December 2014 meeting, the Napa Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors named Gary VanBrocklin Ambassador of the Year. Ambassadors are dedicated members who volunteer their time to assist the Chamber. Many will remember Gary, who has been an Ambassador since 1997, from his longtime former business, the Colonial Saddle Shop.

At our awards luncheon we also honored a special group of individuals and companies that have been members of the Napa Chamber of Commerce for 50 or more consecutive years.