Members of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce (SCC) turned out in large numbers last week to honor the special contributions of individuals and businesses in the greater metropolis of Soldotna at the 57th Annual Awards Celebration. Ryan Kapp who has served more terms as president than any other chamber member turned the 2016 gavel over to Steve Manley of Wells Fargo, but promised to write Steve’s jokes for him, “I couldn’t do it without him he leaves some big shoes to fill when it comes to making the meetings entertaining,” said Manley. Looking to his year as president Manley said, “There will be a lot of challenges this year but in every challenge there is always opportunity and hopefully the opportunities will be just as large as the challenges in front of us. We have a big year coming up, looking at perhaps a new visitor center within the city limits. The council has agreed to set some land aside for us and we’ll begin the work of putting together a building project,” he said.
Selected as the SCC Person of the Year for 2015 was Tim Navarre. Navarre was unable to attend and his brother Borough Mayor Mike received the award on his behalf stating that his mom and dad made sure they learned that community service was part of living in Alaska. Contacted by phone on his way to a wedding in Puerto Rico Navarre said, “I’m humbled by the award from Soldotna and appreciate working to make our community the best it can be. Mike is right we learned it from our mom and dad who always stepped up to do whatever they were asked to do from church events to community events that we would attend we were just little kids by watched our dad engage with people from one end of the Peninsula to the other. One of my first service projects I remember was when we were living in Nikiski out at Bishop Creek they would have a community Father’s Day put on by the Nikiski Community Club and we would swim in the creek and they did everything they could to make all about and fun for the kids. The event continued for a long time and we grew up doing community service as much as we did business in the area,” said Navarre.
Volunteer of the Year was another locally raised boy who came home to work for the Borough and has put his signature on nearly every outdoor event that happened in 2015; Mike Crawford, “It hasn’t sunken in yet, when they started saying this person has been involved in all these events and created all this stuff I started thinking; that’s pretty cool I wonder who it is, so it was a total shock and great surprise. I really enjoy unlocking my own potential then seeing it in other people and providing venues where they can excel and try new things. I’m all about trying new things and since I returned this community has been terrific in providing amazing opportunities and a million friends. There’s a little bit of selfishness in volunteering only because when I volunteer it makes me feel so much better about myself and that’s a really good thing,” said Crawford.
Selected as the Chamber Business of the Year was another homegrown entrepreneur Ginny Smithwick, owner of Pizza Boys in Soldotna. “I had no idea I’d grow up to be a businesswoman but would attribute it to family heritage for one thing and to circumstances and being in the community for a long time, becoming passionate about our community and making a life for myself here,” said Smithwick, the daughter of John and Lois Davis. Other award recipients included Commitment to Customer Service; Lambert Lavea of Printer’s Ink, Excellence in Profession; Joel Todd of Soldotna Parks & Rec. Pioneer Award; Dave Keating, Small Business of the Year; Mountain Mama Originals, Excellence in Government and Civic Affairs; Senator Peter Micciche, Commitment to Youth; Vergine Hedberg former owner of Vergine’s Dance Studio.