'Spirit' awards presented at chamber event

The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce may be 95 years old, but officials are celebrating its anniversary as a rebirth.

A new board was officially installed Jan. 27, but the group had already been at work to revitalize the chamber.

"At our board retreat, it was clear that this group wants to have a different chamber than what you have seen in the past," said President Michael Kinsman. "This board is dedicated to a positive change in the chamber direction. Our new executive director, Kristine Thalman, has already moved us forward on many fronts.

"We have in place everything that will allow the chamber to serve the business community and the community of Laguna Beach to our best ability.

"And finally, we have a strong membership. You, individually, can make a difference, and although the board is committed to making the chamber more robust, actively involved members will make the Laguna business community more viable and stronger."

Attendance at the dinner was the largest ever for the installation and the bestowal of the annual Spirit of Laguna Awards.

In the absence of former award-winner Harry Lawrence, his wife, Zahide, led the pledge of allegiance prior to the presentation of the awards.

Business of the Year

Mission Hospital-Laguna Beach was honored as "one of the most compassionate and esteemed hospitals in Southern California and a critical resource to the community."

Volunteer of the Year

Hans Scharer, who worked at the dinner's sign-in table.

Citizen of the Year

June Neptune, owner of Tivoli Terrace and Tivoli Too!, two venues that host many nonprofit events.

Green Enterprise of the Year

The Montage.

Building Industry of the Year

Tresor Development, which was responsible for the first Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certified project on the California coastline.

Nonprofit of the Year

The Boys & Girls Club.

Restaurant of the Year

Chris Keller's House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer.

Government Official of the Year

City Manager John Pietig, for the way he handled the flood of Dec. 22, 2010.

Retail Store of the Year

Hobie Surf Shop, owned by Mark Christie.

Gallery of the Year

Salt Fine Art.

Professional Service of the Year

Surterre Real Estate and Michael Gosselin.

Board Member of the Year

"This award recognizes the board member who demonstrates leadership, commitment, participation and loyalty towards the betterment of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce," Kinsman said.

It was a tie between attorney Larry Nokes and hotelier/restaurateur Chris Keller.

"I talked to each of them this week, swearing each to secrecy, and let each know that the other was going to receive the award," Kinsman said.

Kinsman asked each to write a few words about the other.

Nokes on Keller: "Chris Keller has had a big impact on Laguna Beach in a short time. In 2007, with a big spirit, a big vision and a big heart, he embraced a fading stretch of Coast Highway and transfigured it into a vibrant business zone now referred to as 'The HIP District.'

"Chris has embraced all of our local businesses, realizing that our collective success produces a robust and resilient commercial community. Lending his energy to the Laguna Beach chamber, and serving as our president for the past two years, Chris created an atmosphere that allowed us to make the adjustments we needed to make to serve our members.

"We owe Chris a debt of thanks. He is a most deserving recipient of this year's LBCC Board Member of the Year award."

Keller on Nokes: "Larry Nokes is a true leader in many ways — as a board member, within the community of Laguna Beach and with his friends. He was instrumental in changing the direction of the chamber, and his efforts included bringing in new leadership in the board makeup and in the executive leadership of the chamber. Larry was instrumental bringing the latest technology to the chamber and implementing our new Quick Response Code [a smartphone marketing app] and the online chamber directory.

"We are proud and lucky to have Larry Nokes as a chamber board member."

Retiring board members Emanuel Patrascu, John Campbell and Tom Simpson received special recognition from state Assemblymen Don Wagner and Allan Mansoor and from the office of Supervisor Pat Bates.

The evening concluded with the installation of the 2012 board members: Kinsman, president; Debbie MacDonald, president-elect; Michael Beck, vice president: Todd Orlich, treasurer; Nokes, secretary; Keller, past president; and members at large Gregg Abel, Peter Blake, Julie Cimpko, Michelle Clark and Gerry Perez.

Mayor Jane Egly officiated.


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