Chamber honors Robinson, Stikine Inn, Privett, teachers
Brian O'Connor/ Wrangell Sentinel
Chamber members line up for food during Saturday's St. Patrick-themed Chamber of Commerce Dinner. This is the one Chamber event which isn't earmarked for the following year.
The Chamber of Commerce honored Lucy Robinson with the Citizen of the Year award at Saturday's annual dinner.
The event also honored new chamber members, the Business of the Year, retiring school system personnel, and distributed the Chamber Membership Appreciation Award. It drew more than 200 members and guests to the Nolan Center for dinner, drinks, dessert auctions, and games. The dinner is the sole event dedicated exclusively to Chamber fundraising, Director Cyni Waddington told the crowd.
The chamber honored Robinson in part because of her involvement with the Southeast Beasts running club – which hosts themed running events with participation fees collected for local charitable causes –and because of her wider community involvement, Waddington said in announcing Robinson.
"As we all know, Lucy works tirelessly organizing various runs and charitable events in our community," Waddington said. "She is such an excellent example of just loving her community."
"She's not only fun and community-oriented but she's all about local business, and everything that she does is just an inspiration to all of us here," Waddington added.
The award was unexpected, Robinson said. "When Cyni called me, I was super surprised and got a small tear, and for those of you who know me, I don't really cry very much, so it was pretty special," she said. "I also didn't write a speech, not because I don't think that my community really appreciates what I do, but because I know there are so many amazing people out there doing so much."
In addition to the running club, which Robinson used part of her speech to promote, Robinson also hosts a radio program on KSTK called "Yeah, Wrangell."
Chamber members also nominated Marilyn Mork for her work with the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary, and Penny Allen who has organized Tent City Days for the past few years.
Chamber voters also
selected The Stikine Inn for Business of the Year.
"The Wrangell Chamber of Commerce 2014 Business of the Year is the Stikine Inn hotel and restaurant in recognition of your superior contributions to the community," Waddington said, over the top of applause that began the instant the name of the owner and manager were called, and swelled to a
standing ovation, one of several throughout the night.
Bill Goodale of the Stikine Inn credited his success to the community in his acceptance speech. "We appreciate it," he said. "This is more about you, not us. Without you – without this community – we couldn't have done what we did there. You have supported us all the way. Hopefully we have supported you."
Goodale also credited his employees. "They are great, and without them, we couldn't provide you with the service that we've been able to over the past eight years," he said. "It's been a long road, it's been a fun road, and we're gonna keep improving. And with your help, our community's gonna grow, and it's doing a great job."
When Goodale first came to Wrangell, he'd heard Wrangell was a "dead-end street," but the business climate has improved.
"There is so much
opportunity in this community that is out there," he added. "Today ... I hear 'This young person bought a business, that young person bought a
business, this one person
started a business.' Guess what Wrangell? You're recovering, just like the other communities in Southeast Alaska, and you're recovering quite nicely because you're keeping Alaskan. You are Alaska."
Stikine Inn Manager Jake Harris said he had discovered Wrangell by accident, but grown attached to the town as he resided there. "We're really proud of what we've done and we're really proud of what you're gonna do," he said.
"I love it here, I'm not going anywhere, and thank you for everything," he added.
Other nominees included Alaska Special SEA Seafoods, the Wrangell Cooperative Association, Superior Marine Services and Breakaway Adventures.
The Wrangell Chamber Member Appreciation award went to Bill Privett, the former owner of Wrangell Oil, sold this year to Petro Marine Services. The sale is widely credited with bringing about a nearly 50-cents-per-gallon drop in local gas prices within weeks of the sale. (In the interests of full disclosure, Privett is also the Sentinel's landlord.)
"I started working at Wrangell Oil when I was 15 years old," he said. "I'm still working there. My motto is you get up every day and you go to work. That's what it's always been for me. That's what my parents did."
Privett acknowledged the decrease in oil prices, which extends beyond gas prices to heating oil, and thanked the Chamber for the award.
"For the first time in a long time, Wrangell has the opportunity to have two large
companies competing against each other, and the only
winners are you guys," he said.
The chamber also honored retiring school system
personnel, including Sue Brown, Vickie Buness-Taylor, Ray Stokes, Dan Roope, Monty Buness, and briefly, Linda Buness.
Part of the recognition process included an invitation for students and parents
affected by each teacher to stand, which included Monty Buness.
"I should have stood for all of those when they said '
Vickie Buness-Taylor and Cyni Waddington laugh at the podium during Saturday's St. Patrick-themed Chamber of Commerce Dinner. The dinner was held at the Nolan Center, and a portion of it honored retiring teachers.
anyone that's been taught by these people,'" he said. "These guys taught me a lot, too. When I first came, they gave me a lot of great advice, and the best thing they did was to provide me with a great example of what it takes to be a good teacher, a fine educator, a good coach, a good friend, a professional and someone who is always standing up for the rights of kids and everyone else."
"I'm gonna miss these guys," he added. "They've been recognized, not only here tonight, which I think is very fitting, but also in many other places on their journey."
Fellow teacher Bob Davis also lauded Buness for his years of service.
Teachers who become administrators sometimes forget the perils of the classroom, Davis said. Monty Buness "never forgot that," he said. "He never forgot where real education is. It focuses on real kids. Kids with individual dreams and hopes. Kids with personal problems, personal challenges, kids with unique sense of humor and ways of looking at the world."
"Monty never forgot, and after 25 years of working with dozens of administrators, I can say it's a rare and wondrous thing to have an administrator who did not have 'admin dementia,'" Davis added.