WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Mary Ann Miesner, right, receives Woman of the Year honors at the Union County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet Friday. At left is Patty McClure, last year’s recipient of the award. CHRIS BAXTER / The Observer
The community was out in force at the Blue Mountain Conference Center Friday night, paying homage to high achievers during the Union County Chamber of Commerce’s 77th annul banquet and awards.Hundreds of people were on hand for the event, enjoying a meal served up by Class Act Catering, and looking on as awards were presented for outstanding community service.
The 2010 Woman of the Year Award went to Mary Ann Miesner, an eight year La Grande City councilor with decades of varied community service to her credit.
Patty McClure, the Oregon Department of Transportation safety specialist who won the award for 2009, did the presenting.
McClure spoke about Miesner’s service on various boards and committees, and highlighted the work she did for the career enhancement center during the years she worked for Training and Employment Consortium.
Most of all, McClure pointed to Miesner’s day-to-day willingness to pitch in and help good causes, whether by individuals or groups.
“She has been an involved citizen giving countless hours of service,” McClure said. “You don’t know her very long before you feel like a friend. If every community had someone like her, the world would be a better place.”
A surprised-appearing Miesner kept her acceptance remarks brief.
“When Patty was saying all those wonderful things, I thought ‘Who is that person?’ It doesn’t sound like me,” she said.
The Chamber’s Man of the Year for 2010 was Gerald Hopkins, a retired educator from Summerville who appears at many Union County events wearing the red jacket of the Union County Ambassadors.
Chamber Executive Director Judy Hector presented Hopkins with the award, praising him for his untiring involvement with the community, especially Lions Club activities.
“Our man of the year is one of the most unselfish people I know,” Hector said. “He makes the wettest parades fun, and the sunniest ones even better.”
The Ambassadors are a committee of the chamber. Hector said that while Hopkins serves as an official member, he carries the group’s mission with him on his extensive travels, too.
He actually brings Union County brochures with him on trips, and leaves them behind in the places he visits. Wherever he goes, he talks the county up.
“He’s a dedicated community volunteer and an ambassador for Union County in his travels around the world,” Hector said.
Accepting the award, Hopkins took the occasion to praise Union County yet again.
“We are living in a great area and a great county, and I hope you all love it as much as I do,” he said.
The Educator of the Year Award went to Peggy Anthony, a teacher at Elgin High School.
Union High School agriculture teacher and Future Farmers of America adviser Dennis Clark presented the award. He focused his remarks on Anthony’s service to the high school yearbook, and more, on her guidance of the local chapter of Future Business Leaders of America.
“She’s an excellent classroom teacher and she knows how to get the kids involved in business activities,” Clark said. “She’s from the old school. She
doesn’t just punch and punch out, but does whatever is needed to be successful.”
In acceptance remarks, Anthony said that if she’s been successful, she owes it to her students.
“Elgin has been a great place to work,” she said. I’ve enjoyed the kids, and for me it’s all about the kids. The kids come through. I’m just in the background.”
The 2010 Business of the Year Award went to Capps Broadcast Group, a radio company that owns seven stations in southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon, including two in Union County.
Presenter Kyle Clark said the company actively supports a wide variety of community activities and causes, including the Drug Free Relay, the American Red Cross and the Crossing the Blues festival. He singled out the company’s donation of air time each year for the 4-H radio auction.
“The staff is very involved in the community and works hard to make sure Union County is a great place to live,” Clark said.
Accepting the award, Capps General Manager Randy McKone thanked his staff and his family for year-round support and hard work.
“I love what we do,” McKone said. “We serve our community. We will continue to serve as long as we can, and this honor tonight is deeply appreciated.”
In other proceedings at the banquet, outgoing president Brent Gunderson introduced the new president, Ryan Hildebrandt, who works as the area manager for Sterling Bank.
Gunderson said Hildebrandt is a local product, a graduate of La Grande High School and Eastern Oregon University who understands the challenges and opportunities facing local business people.
“He’s definitely no stranger to small business. I have no doubt he’ll be an excellent president and I look forward to serving with him,” Gunderson said.
Hildebrandt said he is excited about serving as the chamber’s president and the chance it will give him to work with area businesses.
“My hope is that we can help all the businesses in Union County be successful,” he said.
Also during the banquet, the audience heard Dan Ermovick, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s recreation planner, talk about Union County’s recreation opportunities and how they relate to business.
Ermovick said that in 2009, about 450,000 people visited the Wallowa-Whitman. He added that the so-called “baby boom” generation are primary recreational users.
“There is an increased demand for services for older people,” Ermovick said.
He also said forest users have a tendency to shop for the latest in outdoor gear, including Global Positioning Systems, digital cameras, mountain and road bikes, and outdoor clothing.
Ermovick said that of all Union County’s recreational advantages, scenery is the most valued. Other attractions high on the list are hiking and biking trails, and areas that are good for bird watching.