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Business leaders, nonprofits and public servants were honored Thursday night during the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce annual awards gala.

Held at Hancock College's Marian Theatre, the event brought together community members, family and friends to celebrate this year’s winners.

The Robert P. Hatch Citizens of the Year Award — named for the former President and CEO of the Chamber — was presented to Orie and Gladys Johnson, who founded the Harvest Community Center.

The Johnsons, who have been involved in service since they arrived in Santa Maria in 1970, were greeted with a standing ovation as they accepted their award.

The Harvest Community Center, founded by the Johnsons in 2017, provides everything from organized computer classes for adults to food drives to help those in need.

During the gala, short videos featuring the award winners were played after each award was announced.

“I feel blessed — Santa Maria has been good to us,” Gladys Johnson said in the video. “To give back [to this community], I’m very proud of that because we’ve served so many.”

Former City Manager Rick Haydon was awarded the Robert F. Grogan Public Service Award, which is given to those who have provided noteworthy service to the community through professional or volunteer work in a public agency. The award is named for former City Manager Robert F. Grogan in honor of his service to Santa Maria.

Haydon, who spent 21 years in administrative positions in Santa Maria city government, retired in December 2017.

In a recorded video played during the gala, Haydon recalled the challenges he dealt with upon becoming Santa Maria’s top administrator.

“When I took over as City Manager, it was a turbulent time,” Haydon said. “We weren’t out of the Great Recession yet, we had multimillion-dollar budget deficits, we had five officer-involved shootings within the last eight months.”

The 2018 Tourism Partner of the Year Award was presented to Jamie Flores, the creator and coordinator of the Santa Maria Beerfest and Santa Maria BBQ Festival.

In a video played after his award was announced, Flores talked about organizing the Santa Maria Beerfest.

“Santa Maria Beerfest was my first major project on my own and I was able to partner with a brand near the area,” Flores said. “I went out and did a lot of ‘research and development.’ Really what I took from it was how I’m able to get better, how do I make sure that if you attend my event, you have a great time and leave thinking, ‘I got to go back next year.’”

The 2018 Nonprofit of the Year was Santa Maria Business Development Center, which works to support and expand business opportunities throughout the Santa Maria Valley.

Orcutt restaurant Trattoria Uliveto was selected as the Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year.

The restaurant — which was founded by businessman Jim Spallino and Alfonso Curti, former executive chef of Santa Ynez-based restaurant Trattoria Grappolo — serves up Italian classics like Caprese salad, carpaccio, along with many varieties of pasta and pizza.

Idler’s Home, anointed as the Chamber’s Large Business of the Year, sells mattresses, furniture and appliances out of four shops in the Central Coast. The family-owned business — which was founded in 1954, employs more than 70 people.

“We're truly honored and humbled by the recognition,” said Jon Idler. “We feel like we’re part of what this community’s about.”

The 2018 Ambassador of the Year Award was presented to Diane Moffitt, of Morris & Garritano Insurance, for her work to recruit new members and celebrate area businesses.

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed


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