Citizen of the Year Awards Ceremony 2013

2013 Oakley Citizen of the Year Award Winners

First Row: Family of Detective Berkley, Debbie Robertson, Sallie Goetsch, Lynn Stahli, Brenda d’Amico, Shirley Darling, Karen Harrington. Second Row: Erica Rodriguez-Langley, Satinder Mahli, Kevin Romick, Ian Lasher’s mother

The Oakley Chamber of Commerce held its Citizen of the Year award ceremony at Oakley City Hall on June 25th, as announced earlier on this site. It seemed to the Chamber Board that this compromise between no event (2012) and an expensive event which few people attended (the years immediately preceding 2012) or an expensive event which lost money in spite of good attendance (the middle years of the decade) was successful. With no charge for admission, each of the honorees brought multiple family members and friends–I shook hands with several people’s grandchildren. Debbie Robertson seemed to be a particularly popular choice for Citizen of the Year.

Local and state government also turned out to support our distinguished residents. Erica Rodriguez-Langley presented certificates on behalf of Assemblymember Jim Frazier. Satinder Malhi did the same for State Senator Mark DeSaulnier. Congressman Jerry McNerney’s office also sent certificates, which Mayor Kevin Romick passed out along with the certificates from the City of Oakley.

Despite this assembly line of certificates and plaques, the entire ceremony only took about 30 minutes, after which there was a short break for homemade cookies and cupcakes in the lobby. We could tell that most of those present had been there for the Citizen of the Year awards, because when the city council meeting resumed, the chambers were all but empty.

Rowena Coetsee at the Contra Costa Times and Samie Hartley at the Press both covered the event, but I thought I would publish the actual notes I wrote. Those who were there and paid attention will observe that what I actually said diverged here and there in detail, but this remains the substance.

Youth Volunteer of the Year 2012: Ian Lasher

Ian Lasher has already won the President’s Volunteer Service Award for doing more than 100 hours of community service. He volunteers at 4-H, at the Contra Costa County Fair, at the Alameda County Fair, at the State Fair, at the Knightsen Youth Association, at Knightsen School and at Freedom High School. You wouldn’t think he has time to take any classes, but he’s an honor roll student. The Oakley Chamber of Commerce is delighted to offer Ian the Youth Volunteer of the Year award.

Adult Volunteer of the Year 2012

This year we have two winners for Adult Volunteer of the year.

Shirley Darling

I doubt I have to introduce Shirley Darling to you, because you have probably already seen her here at City Council meetings. Sometimes it seems as though Shirley is on the board of every nonprofit organization in Oakley. She helped to start the Friends of Oakley. This year she is the historian of the Degree of Pocahontas. She is a director of the Oakley Chamber of Commerce. She has been a vocal supporter of the Oakley Generating Station. And perhaps most important at the moment, Shirley has been instrumental in finding the Oakley Seniors a permanent home and negotiating a favorable contract with the City. Congratulations!

Karen Harrington

You may not know Karen Harrington, but if you have driven down Vintage Parkway, you have seen her handiwork. Karen saw litter and graffiti in her neighborhood and decided to do something about it. She organized her neighbors into the Vintage Parkway Beautification Project and persuaded the City to help out with fence-painting efforts. In addition, Karen volunteers with Loaves and Fishes. ed. note: Bryan Montgomery gave Karen an enormous bouquet of flowers.

Business Person of the Year 2012: Brenda d’Amico

Black Bear Diner contributes in cash and in kind to many local fundraising efforts, and Brenda d’Amico is the one who organizes these activities, whether it’s Freedom Football or the Pennies for Prevention campaign for Relay for Life. This past year Brenda has led the effort to ensure proper signage on Highway 4 to direct people into Oakley’s downtown commercial district.

Officer of the Year: Tony Berkley

Deputy Berkley was assigned to the Oakley Police Contract in 2007. He was recently selected to be an Oakley Detective. Over the course of his assignment to Oakley Police Patrol, Deputy Berkley has maintained some of the highest arrest statistics. In 2010, Deputy Berkley made 116 arrests, 53 of which were DUI arrests. In 2011, Deputy Berkley made 168 arrests, 75 of which were DUI arrests. In 2012, Deputy Berkley made 143 arrests, 36 of which were DUI’s. Deputy Berkley has been recognized five consecutive years (including the upcoming 2012 event) by MADD for the numerous DUI arrests he made and for creating a safer environment for the community.

I have not had the honor of meeting Detective Berkley myself, but want to convey the Chamber’s congratulations and appreciation for his service.

Citizen of the Year 2012: Debbie Robertson

As site manager of Loaves and Fishes in Oakley, Debbie Robertson feeds the hungry five days a week. She also helps serve breakfast each month at the Red Men/Pocahontas Hall. Then she volunteered to provide lunches for the Oakley Seniors. And I’ve heard she even delivers food at home to ailing members of the Degree of Pocahontas. In honor of her giving and cheerful spirit, the Oakley Chamber of Commerce names Debbie Robertson Citizen of the Year.

President’s Choice 2013: Lynn Stahli

Each year the president of the Oakley Chamber is asked to name someone who has been of particular assistance. Office Manager Lynn Stahli not only works at least twice as many hours as we pay her for, she cooks egg casseroles for our breakfasts with the mayor and brings me painkillers when I’m having migraines. The entire board wants to acknowledge her service beyond the call of duty.

There was another person the board wanted to acknowledge, but as he categorically refused any kind of public award, we’ll have to celebrate his service privately.

June 19th Luncheon: The California Economy: Challenges for Growth & Competitiveness

Chelsea Minor addresses members of the Oakley Chamber of Commerce about the impact of energy policy on the state's economy.

Chelsea Minor addresses members of the Oakley Chamber of Commerce about the impact of energy policy on the state’s economy.

Chelsea Minor and Laura Murrell of KP Public Affairs gave a presentation about their work with the California Business Roundtable. In January 2013, the California Business Roundtable, endorsed by numerous chambers of commerce, wrote a letter to Governor Brown and the State Legislature asking for help creating policies that would “address the state’s high cost of doing business,” and put forth Five Legislative Initiatives for California’s Recovery:

  1. Pursue responsible energy policies that encourage job creation
  2. Create a state jobs and economic development plan
  3. Encourage hiring by eliminating excessive costs to employers
  4. Commit to long-term investments in needed infrastructure
  5. Reduce regulatory burdens
Click image to download PDF document

Click image to download PDF document

They also presented some statistics: in spite of the claims coming out of Sacramento that 88,000 jobs have been created this year, the state is down 3 million jobs since the start of the  recession. Bay area residents pay 65.6% more than the national average for electricity and 30.6% more than the national average for natural gas.

Employers considering moving to East Contra Costa face not only the regulatory and economic barriers that affect the rest of the state, but a critical transport bottleneck. Although we have rail and water available to us along the Wilbur Corridor, Highway 4 is a disaster and there is no good truck route east to Highway 5. The completion of 239 will make the area much more attractive to manufacturing and light industrial companies, but that will take years to complete. Meanwhile, anyone driving from the west or the north has trouble even finding Oakley’s commercial district due to the misleading signage on the freeways. As a city and a chamber, Oakley can certainly relate to the difficulties inherent in starting up a business, never mind actually employing anyone in it.

Present at the luncheon were representatives from Delta Scrap and Salvage, ECC Bank, DMR Reporting, the Degree of Pocahontas, Oakley Seniors, Tax Specialty Service, Sutter Delta, The LaGrande Wedding & Event Center, Stonecrest Lending, Ignyter Software Development, WP Fangirl, Glow Wellness, Diablo Water District, Ridgewater Realty, and of course our hosts at the Black Bear Diner. Thanks to Darci Bowen for organizing the event.

June Chamber Mixer at SDG Architects

Hosted by SDG Architects

June 2013 Chamber Mixer at SDG Architects

Roger Strauss has been a regular presence at Oakley Chamber events since his firm joined in February of this year, and we all enjoyed the chance to look around the building that SDG designed for itself. SDG has a staff of 25, including Roger and his two brothers, and manages the attached Brentwood Reprographics. (Ever seen a 62-inch printer?) The ground-floor workspaces are laid out in elongated zig-zag shapes; the in-house graphic designer and the civil engineering team work upstairs. If you want to see just one example of their work, check out the Vic Stewart’s restaurant and plaza.

Along with both of Roger’s brothers and several of the SDG employees, we were joined by Erica Rodriguez-Langley from Assemblymember Jim Frazier’s office, future member Helen Raoufian from Travis Credit Union, new members Land Home Financial Services, Fred Ginsler from the Oakley Press, Deb Dutcher from Energy Unlimited, Alan Peterson from Peterson Studios, Dr. Margaret Stahler from Madrona Naturopathic Healthcare (who is planning to join in time to host the July mixer and has recently appeared in the Oakley Press and 110° Magazine), two new members, a tax preparer and a natural supplements representative,  Larry Jones and his wife Sabrina, Darci Bowen and her colleague Kathy from Sutter Delta, Dr. Kristin Mattingly from Oakley Chiropractic, Shirley Darling from the Oakley Seniors, Stefan Didak from Ignyter (with the camera), and Sallie Goetsch from WP Fangirl. Tom Williams from Ironhouse Sanitary District paid for the wine, provided by Cindy Thomas of Wine Shop at Home, and Oakley Chamber office manager Lynn Stahli kept everything together.

Roger gave a bit of the history of SDG, after which everyone introduced themselves, with a bit of good-natured rivalry among those in competing businesses. Sallie Goetsch then announced several upcoming events: the Oakley Seniors open house on June 15th and 16th; the luncheon on June 19th to discuss California’s economic climate; the Citizen of the Year Awards Ceremony on June 25th; and the Home-based Business Roundtable on July 23rd.

Without Steve Harland around, a few other people had a chance to win raffle prizes. Larry Jones took home a nice golf shirt from SDG Architects; his wife won tickets to El Campanil Theater from the Oakley Press. Fred Ginsler of the Press, on the other hand, won a set of bath soap. Roger Strauss landed both a spot treatment from Dr. Margaret and a $25 gift certificate to Carpaccio from Alan Peterson, while Deb Dutcher nabbed the 30-minute massage from Oakley Chiropractic. Sallie Goetsch took home the big folding tote from Sutter Delta, which proved to contain a sweatshirt, a pedometer, a multi-function timer/stopwatch/clock, a portfolio clipboard, and a set of golf balls.

Other prizes included more El Campanil tickets, gift certificates for business cards from Brentwood Reprographics, a set of decorative coffee mugs from the Oakley Seniors, a gasoline gift card, and a second bath kit. (The odds are good when you participate in Oakley Chamber raffles.)

If you’d like to host a mixer, contact Lynn Stahli at (925) 625-1035.

Breakfast with the Mayor at Comfort Suites, June 3rd, 2013

Breakfast with the Mayor at the Comfort Suites in Oakley

The Oakley Chamber’s June Breakfast with the Mayor at Comfort Suites was the largest such event we’ve had so far this year. Due to a scheduling error, our hosts were unable to join us, but the guests overflowed the U-shaped conference table and had to bring in extra chairs. (For anyone who isn’t aware of it, Comfort Suites has very nice conference rooms with projection screens and fold-out white boards.)

Alan Peterson of Peterson Studios, Roger Strauss of SDG Architects, Margaret Stahler of Madrona Naturopathic Healthcare, Larry Jones of Larry Jones Doors, Susan Morgan of Equilytics, and Mary Lou Shively and Elaine from the Degree of Pocahontas joined Chamber board members Sallie Goetsch, Stefan Didak, Shirley Darling, and Jane Crockett, former board members Tom Johnson, Tom Williams and Doug Scheer, and office manager Lynn Stahli to talk to Oakley mayor Kevin Romick about the usual range of topics.

Construction on Main Street

What with one thing and another, Bay Cities accumulated 45 days of legitimate delays, but nevertheless the roadwork is due to be completed (or penalties will apply) by the end of June. Irrigation lines for the fountain are going in now. Construction on O’Hara, by contrast, seems to be proceeding in a much more orderly fashion.

CentrOmart Building

The sale to DG Market has gone through, but there is no move-in date. The building needs a lot of remedial work.

Oakley Plaza

Ace Hardware is in the final stages of purchasing the buildings at the back of the lot, which will be re-facaded in order to match the new Carpaccio and La Costa buildings. Ace Hardware will be occupying three of the spaces and building on an 18,000 square foot extension for a lumber yard. The current tenants of the other storefronts will be staying.

Almond Fest/Heart of Oakley Festival

The mayor requested that the Chamber make an official statement about whether or not there will be an Almond Fest in 2013, as the City has been getting inquiries. The Heart of Oakley festival is coming up on September 14th, and Shirley Darling needs to schedule another meeting with Lindsey Bruno in Recreation to talk about it. Heart of Oakley is a one-day festival that will take place downtown and give local restaurants and businesses an opportunity to showcase their products. The Oakley Chamber will be responsible for the beer and wine garden. If you are interested in renting a booth, talk to Recreation Supervisor Lindsey Bruno at (925) 625-7042.

Thanks to the Mayor

Dr. Margaret Stahler thanked the mayor and the city council for addressing a problem over at The Oaks.

Photos by Stefan Didak.

Oakley Chamber Mixer May 2013

Special guests at the May 2013 Oakley Chamber Mixer (hosted by Gene and Michelle Buchholz of Hook, Line, and Sinker) included founding chamber members John Papini (first sighting this year), Ken Graunstadt, and Michael Painter, as well as lifetime member Margorie Baker. Councilmember and Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed organizer Diane Burgis also attended. Oakley Executive RV and Boat Storage sent new employee Liz Leppelmeier.

The Buchholzes provided more information about the upcoming FLW Bass Tournament and its importance to Oakley’s hospitality industry, as well as more information about their daughter Kimberly’s planned purchase of Mike’s Beef and Brew (to be renamed Providence). Residents are urged to be welcoming towards any visiting anglers they encounter over the next few weeks. If you are interested in helping out at the tournament, please contact Gene at 925.625.2441.

Fred Ginsler from the Oakley Press announced that the Best of Oakley contest is coming up and pointed to the insert those of us with shop windows can display to encourage our customers to vote for us. There should be at least one other business of your type in Oakley for you to compete.

Somehow Steve Harland of Good Scents Florist managed to win several raffle prizes, even though he wasn’t there!

Silver River Restaurant (just a few doors down from Hook, Line, and Sinker at 3100 Main Street) provided the food.

Breakfast with the Mayor, May 6, 2013

Wendy Lou Turner, who recently rebranded her business as Glow Wellness & Herbs, hosted the May Breakfast with the Mayor event at the Chamber of Commerce office. (Any home-based business owner is welcome to use the Chamber office to host a Mayor Breakfast or Mixer.)

Wendy Lou would like to find a small office space to rent in Oakley (and will be talking to Cecilia Fritzler about it), but there is unlikely to be any new construction of office spaces in the near future because there are too many such offices standing empty in Brentwood and Antioch.

Speaking of construction, the state of Main Street and the decision to narrow it to two lanes in front of City Hall came under fire. Mayor Romick emphasized that the plan has always been to force traffic to slow down in the downtown area. This is commendable enough: the speeds at which cars race past the Chamber office make it very noisy, and getting into and out of the new parking lot is a bit tricky. What Dr. Margaret Stahler pointed out is that traffic has been getting backed up for several blocks outside of downtown in the direction of Brentwood, leading to road rage and illegal U-turns.

It’s possible (and certainly the City’s intent) that when the alternate routes are complete, the truck traffic and others who have only been using Main Street as a way to get to the 160 entrance ramp will use those alternate routes, leaving the downtown area for those who have business there. But it’s also possible that the two-lane portion of Main Street will continue to act as a bottleneck to a greater degree than the City anticipated. If nothing else, it takes time for people to develop new habits.

A mention of the upcoming Heart of Oakley event on September 14th raised the issue that, although the Chamber is happy to cooperate the City in holding an event downtown, as a Chamber we still need an event of our own where we can collect gate receipts and booth rental fees, to replace the income lost with the Almond Fest. Mike Rosalves of East County Little League proposed a car show, an idea that definitely bears looking into further.

Mayor Romick also announced the next phase of the Vintage Parkway cleanup project, on May 11th, funded by the homeowners association for the other side of the development. (Thanks to everyone who participated.)

Oakley Chamber Mixer April 2013 – La Grande

The April chamber mixer was a great success, with approximately 30 people in attendance. Theresa and Renee provided a lovely dinner in the kitchen of the big house (not a commercial kitchen, but a good place for wedding caterers to warm up and serve food). Members Steve Harland of Good Scents florist and wedding photographer Claudette Novotny from Through the Lens were both delighted to discover the La Grande as a venue and future strategic partner.

Gene and Michelle Buchholz from Hook, Line, and Sinker made the exciting announcement that their daughter is returning to Oakley to buy Mike’s Beef and Brew (which will undergo a name and menu change). They also mentioned the upcoming FLW Outdoor Pro Everstart Bass Tournament coming up May 16-18 at Russo’s Marina on Bethel Island. (And they brought a guest, too!)

Tom Williams emerged from hiding at Ironhouse Sanitary District and purchased wine from Cindy Thomas. (New member John Dobleman also contributed a bottle of award winning Wedl wine for the raffle, though he wasn’t able to attend.)

Others in attendance included Dori Anderson and Hal Hutchens from Cypress Lakes Realty, Vince and Jorge from Make Me an Offer, Charleen Earley with the latest issue of Delta Living Magazine, Alan and Lynn Peterson from Peterson Studios, Dr. Margaret Stahler from Madrona Naturopathic Healthcare, Jennifer Jost from Edward Jones, Roger Strauss from SDG Architects, Tom Cusack from Scruffy Dog Productions, Sonia Beasley from the Oakley Press, Sue Hansen on behalf of Ridgewater Realty, and prospective members Eric Malchado and Helen Raoufian from Travis Credit Union, as well as Chamber board members Darci Bowen, Shirley Darling, Stefan Didak (with the cameras), Sallie Goetsch, Diane Lasher, Kristin Mattingly, and Wendy Lou Turner.

We had an abundance of raffle prizes, but somehow Steve Harland managed to win most of them. Could be because he bought the most raffle tickets. 😉

Breakfast with the Mayor, April 1st, 2013

Tom Johnson of Les Schwab tires hosted the April Breakfast with the Mayor. Tom is a deservedly popular guy, and we had a good turnout. New Chamber member Jake Barritt of DMR Reporting attended, as did prospective members Craig Baker of Cupertino Towing (no longer in Cupertino, thanks to a massive AAA restructuring last year) and DrillTech. Craig Baker commended Oakley’s police force, and in particular police chief Bani Kollo.

Also in attendance were Larry Jones, Doug Scheer, Alan Peterson, Jheffy New, Susan Morgan, and Mike Burkholder, as well as Chamber Directors Jane Crockett, Shirley Darling, Stefan Didak, and Sallie Goetsch.

Tom gave a tour of his facility and introduced his new assistant manager, who recently moved to Oakley from Utah. Les Schwab is not a franchise, but the managers do share in the store’s profits, providing them considerable incentive. Not only has Tom worked for Les Schwab for 27 years, but his father did so before him.

Naturally the fountain of perpetual contention came up in the discussion with Mayor Romick, as did the receding completion date on the downtown road and sidewalk construction. (It looks as if there will have to be parallel parking instead of angled parking in some spots order to preserve some of the trees.) That led to the discussion of construction on Highway 4 and the former Bypass, and the mysteriously-named eBART. (It’s not electronic–should it be dBART for “diesel”?) Though the Hillcrest eBART station appears to be pretty much on schedule, not too much else is.

An only slightly related topic was the possible location of a Popeye’s Chicken in Oakley. (UPS Store owners Kajal and Shalendra Sharma own a very successful Popeye’s in Antioch and are looking to expand.) The 160 exit where Carl’s Jr and McDonald’s now reside is not all that attractive at the moment, but could become more so once the freeway entrance is completed in the other direction.

And speaking of freeways, what Oakley and all of East County need is a freeway exit to the east. This looks like it might be getting moved up the agenda, but the Highway 4 bottleneck remains a safety concern for all East County mayors, to the point where Antioch is considering re-establishing ferry service not because it would make an effective form of public transport but because it might be useful in an emergency evacuation plan.

As for Oakley’s power generating plant, that is on track so far, but it still has to go through one more round of appeals (behind closed doors on April 18th) and then a possible lawsuit. If all that goes forward, construction will start on a portion of the DuPont property. Although this generating station should eventually allow an older and less efficient station to be taken offline, right now it is being built in addition to the existing stations.

If you would like to host a breakfast with the mayor, please contact the chamber office.

Spring Into Oakley 2013

Hosted by:

The Oakley Chamber of Commerce would particularly like to thank Black Bear Diner for providing the food for our Spring into Oakley event. Our student volunteer deserves a medal for bravely donning the bunny suit and entertaining the children.

Thanks also to Katie and Mikaela Stahli for bringing their pet rabbit (a creature of extremely venerable age and impressive patience).  Got a Party provided the jumpy house and Wendy Lou Turner’s husband tracked down the correct breaker to get it inflated. Meanwhile Cindy Thomas managed the mimosas and Kristin Mattingly ringmastered the raffle prizes. Oakley mayor Kevin Romick stopped by to say hello, as well.

Oakley Chamber Mixer March 2013

Relay for Life (the American Cancer Society) sponsored the March Chamber mixer, which took place at Peterson Studios. For those not familiar with it, Peterson Studios, which started as a fine art pottery studio, now offers kitchen design services at prices equal or better to those of Home Depot.

The Relay for Life Oakley team turned out in droves and purple shirts with trays and trays of food, including cakes by TL Cakes (Tena Loves Cakes) in Brentwood. (We’re trying to get her to join the Oakley Chamber.) Oakley’s Relay for Life event is May 18th at Freedom High School, starting at 9 AM and continuing for 24 hours. Visit the My Relay page to find a team or a fundraiser event if you’d like to participate.

Chamber director Wendy Lou Turner is on the Oakley Relay for Life team this year and is as impressed as anyone with the level of organization they show.

New Chamber members Jorge and Vince from Make Me an Offer also had a chance to explain their business (reselling the contents of abandoned storage units) and invite people to come by (it’s right next to the Oakley Chamber office) to look for antique lamps and other treasures.