While those recognized at this year’s Annual Awards and Installation Gala recognized a diverse group of business and community members, a common thread ran through each recipient; their commitment to giving back to the local community.

“The Annual Awards evening is our chance each year to highlight individuals and companies that help make Santa Maria such a great place to live and do business,” said Glenn Morris, President/CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The Annual Gala also marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for the Chamber, and new their new Board chair and Board members and formally installed. The highlight of the evening, though, is recognizing the recipients of a series of awards including:

Red Dog Management receives the 2017 Large Business of the Year award.

Robert P. Hatch Citizen of the Year Award: Bill Wurth

Robert F. Grogan Public Service Award: Santa Maria Retired Police Chief Ralph Martin

Small Business of the Year: Testa’s Catering

Large Business of the Year: Red Dog Management

With the exception of the Public Service Award, which is chosen by a committee of Chamber Board members, the award recipients are selected from a pool of nominations submitted by the Santa Maria community. This year, the Chamber saw a record number of nominations.

“We’re blessed each year to have a deep pool of candidates who are worthy of recognition,” said Glenn Morris, President/CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It makes it tough to chose just one recipient but this means that those who are ultimately selected are truly great examples and representatives of our community.”

Among those recognized is recently retired Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin. A 40 year law enforcement veteran, Marin served as the Santa Maria Police Department’s Chief of Police from 2012 to June of 2017.

“I think the community is a lot safer now than it was five year ago, and I think the quality of life in Santa Maria has dramatically improved thanks in part to the efforts of Chief Martin,” said Rick Haydon, City Manager for the City of Santa Maria.

This year’s Citizen of the Year recipient is Bill Wurth. Wurth, who has been actively involved in the Elks for over 20 years, proves that age is no excuse when it comes to giving back.

“My friends tell me, ‘Bill – I’m too old to volunteer’,”Wurth said. “To me – age is just a number. There’s always something you can do to get involved and help your community.”

Wurth has helped raise over 1.5 million dollars working Bingo for the Elks Lodge for the past 12 years. Wurth spends his weekends volunteering at the Elk’s kitchen for birthdays and weddings, and has been an Elks rodeo volunteer for the last 12 years, and was Elk of the Year in 2014. On Wednesdays, Wruth serves as a docent at the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society, where he’s worked for the last 4 years. Cindy Ransick, Curator at the Museum, was the one who nominated Bill for the award.

“I just find it incredible how much he’s given back to the community, and just the longevity of service to Santa Maria,” she said. “I think these awards are meant to recognize truly exemplary people and businesses in our community. Bill is someone you can depend on, you can believe in, and you can trust. And to me, that’s the essence of being a good citizen.”

Other award recipients of the evening included Ambassador of the Year, which was awarded to Charelne Paz for her volunteer efforts in the Chamber’s Ambassador Club. The Ted Eckert Lifetime Community Achievement Award, given out by Leadership Santa Maria Valley, was award to Cary Gray.

The evening’s program also included the unveiling of the Chamber’s updated branding, logo and website. The evening wrapped up with a performance from comedian Randy Lubas.

“The Annual Awards Gala is a great event because it gives us the opportunity to recognize those who have given back so much to the community and truly lead by example,” said Alex Magana, Events and Special Projects Manager for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“And what better way to begin a new fiscal year at the Chamber than by recognizing those who go above and beyond to give back and make Santa Maria Valley a great place to live and work.”

Photos courtesy of Diego’s Shutter Photography.