Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce President Dan Rule welcomed nearly 100 chamber members to the free tri-tip barbecue dinner Aug. 14, in the pavilion at the Oakhurst Community Center.
“This dinner is for you, the members, in appreciation for your membership and support of the chamber,” Rule said. “Relax and enjoy the meal and the company.”
Rule outlined the goals the chamber board of directors established to benefit the membership during a planning session early in the year.
“We determined our 2015 goals and priorities to fulfill the mission and purpose of this chamber,” Rule said. “The three priorities are to be a voice and advocate for the membership and the communities we serve, to promote economic development, and to continue to be good stewards of membership financial contributions.”
Rule encouraged chamber members to get involved in on one of the many chamber committees including economic development, emergency preparedness, Women In Business, merchant retail, ambassadors, and advocacy - and committees for special events such as the German Fest, and the Oakhurst Fall Festival.
“In the area of advocacy, we opposed the increased Yosemite entrance fee, continued to lobby for additional funds to support the Eastern Madera County joint chamber alliance economic development coalition, and hosted a forum for business leaders to meet with Congressman Tom McClintock,” Rule said. “We Registered our support of the Marketplace Fairness Act, and supported legislation to help the community with fire fuel reduction.”
Rule said the chamber’s Emergency Preparedness Taskforce focused on the devastating impact of wild fires through three public awareness campaigns - “Wildfire is Coming, Get Ready, Get Out,” “No Fireworks,” and “No Open Flames. We also assisted Sierra Tel and the Red Cross in establishing the Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).
Rule said the biggest change the chamber faced recently was the resignation of Executive Director Dr. Darin Soukup, who accepted a position as director of the Oakhurst Community College Center.
“Darin is uniquely qualified for the position and we are overjoyed for him and his family,” Rule said. “Over the last three years Darin has been instrumental in navigating challenging transformations and positive growth of the chamber ... the good news is Darin will be joining the chamber board.”
Soukup received a standing ovation from those in attendance.
Rule then introduced Joelle Leader, the chamber’s new executive director
“Joelle’s wealth of experience and education make her a perfect fit for this position,” Rule said. “We are truly lucky to have her as part of the team.”
Guest speaker for the evening was Casey Hawkins, who along with his wife Lindsey, own South Gate Brewing Co. at the corner of Highway 49 and Enterprise Drive.
The two-year-old business recently won a gold medal for its Oaktown Brown beer at the San Diego Beer Festival, the second largest festival in the world.
Hawkins had high praise for the community of Oakhurst.
“There are amazing people in this town with a lot of talent and heart,” Hawkins said. “This community has given us nothing but love and support since we got here, and we thank everyone for that.”
He shared some future plans for the business including expansion of the current restaurant - servers will start taking food orders at customer’s tables - and an expanded dinner menu. He said the restaurant will continue to use only the freshest ingredients, pointing out that all salads on the menu are made with organic produce from the Kern Family Farm in North Fork.
Hawkins also revealed tentative plans for the business to enlarge its beer producing capacity from a yet-to-be-named location, separate from the restaurant/brewery. The expansion would increase company employees to nearly 50, from the current 37.
The dinner was sponsored by Ameriprise Financial, 47th Place Carpet One, Foster & Parker Insurance, The Redwoods In Yosemite, the Sierra Star, Sullivan’s Tire Pros, and Yosemite Bank.