From Canyon To Cove: Chamber honors its own with Spirit

The Laguna Beach business community got a chance to meet newly elected Assemblyman Don Wagner at the Chamber of Commerce's installation dinner and Spirit of Laguna awards ceremony last week at Tivoli Too.

Wagner, an Irvine Republican, replaced Chuck DeVore, who was termed out in the 70th District.

"It's worse than you think," Wagner said of his first two weeks in the Capitol. "It [the Legislature] is thoroughly dysfunctional, but it is beginning to take hold that it can't be business as usual."

Wagner supports cutting regulations on businesses to "encourage entrepreneurs and business owners."

"My job is to keep their feet to the fire, and we are pledged to make it easier for you to be in business and put people back to work," he added. "Businesses will fix what's wrong with California, if we let you. Tell us where we can cut, what regulations, and what the state needs to stop doing."

Mayor Toni Iseman, who introduced Wagner, praised the business community as "the risk-takers, entrepreneurs."

"You keep the town vibrant, and I know how important you are," Iseman said.

Wagner helped install the incoming board of directors, and hand out Spirit of Laguna awards to local business people.

Those inducted onto the board for 2011 were John Campbell, Chris Keller, Emanuel Patrascu, Todd Orlich, Julie Cimpko, Debbie MacDonald, Bucky Weeks, Larry Nokes, Michael Kinsman, Greg Abel, Michael Beck and Tom Simpson.

Honorees walked away with arms full of commendations from state Sen. Tom Harman (R-Costa Mesa) and Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates, as well as the coveted Spirit awards.

Keller, who is chamber president, said the business group plans to improve operations in 2011, but did not present details.

"We want your thoughts on how we can be a better chamber," Keller said. "We want to make changes to be better than we have ever been."

Former City Manager Ken Frank, who received a standing ovation when he was presented the government person of the year award, said chamber-City Hall relations have improved in the last decade.

He also praised Executive Director Rose Hancock for serving in the position longer than most other executives.

"Rose has brought stability, and board members are more active," he said.

Georgia Andersen, widow of Claes Andersen, accepted the business of the year award on behalf of the Hotel Laguna, founded in 1923 and considered the city's oldest business.

"We will continue in the tradition Claes started, and we will make him proud in the spirit of dedication and hospitality," said Andersen, who also thanked Hancock, who

"has brought out the best in us."

She dismissed rumors that the hotel would be sold, saying that it is only being remodeled.

Sam Goldstein, who completed a long-awaited remodel of the historic Heisler Building in 2010 — now occupied by Tommy Bahama — was honored as Harry Lawrence person of the year, a laurel named for the longtime chamber advocate. Lawrence, 97, was in attendance.

"We are watching a living legend in the making," Wagner said of Goldstein.

Patrascu, a Harman deputy, thanked the developer "for fighting to create such a beautiful building."

"I'm proud of what I've done, but it was a challenge and still is," Goldstein said.

Goldstein, who failed in a bid to exempt the building from a city requirement for a public art component, made it a point to praise the city's Business Improvement District, the voluntary tax assessment paid by hotels that funds the Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau and art programs.

"The bed tax is the best thing in this community," Goldstein said. "In 10 years, $13 million has been raised."

Other honorees for the year were: Mozambique, small business of the year; Laguna Playhouse, premier business; Hobie's Mark Christy, merchant; Rosann Nitti and Greg Padgett, ambassadors; Dennis Junka, board member; and Catherine Wilkinson, outgoing board member.

City Editor CINDY FRAZIER can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or

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