Inspiring Leadership

The Jan. 16 Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce Installation & Awards dinner at Tenaya Lodge was attended by 150 Mountain Area residents to acknowledge and celebrate the 2014 Man and Woman of the Year, Business of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.

Karen White had the honor of introducing the chamber’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to Oakhurst architect Patrice Jensen. The award is the highest honor the chamber can bestow, and it is presented only to those who have shown “extraordinary contributions to the community through many, many years of service.”

Jensen has been a leader and big supporter in the beautification of Oakhurst including planting trees, cleaning the banks of the Fresno River, cleanup and management of the abandoned Tesoro property on the south-west corner of Highways 41 and 49 (including decorative fencing, planting and the welcoming bear family), and cleanup and management of the Pashayan property on the east side of Highway 41 adjacent to the Chevron station. Once overgrown with weeds and surrounded by an ugly construction fencing. Jensen led the efforts to eliminate the old fencing with the lower fencing in front and continues landscaping and maintenance of the property.

White said Jensen has donated her expertise and services to practically every non-profit and community organization in the Mountain Area, and outlined additional contributions Jensen has made over the past 20+ years, including, countless hours working on the Oakhurst River Parkway clearing trails, and putting up retaining walls.

“Patrice has personally removed tons of trash from the Fresno River over the years,” White said.

She was instrumental in the formation of the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park and designed the Interpretive Center building at the park. Jensen also made arrangements for the planting of 600 trees in and around the community, including at the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park.

Jensen, along with 2011 Man of the Year, Roger Schneider, continues to water many of those surviving trees by hand.

“She authored and fought for the greatest beautification project of all – the Sign Ordinance – transforming our community from a “Little Blackstone” to a more charming foothill destination,” White said. “County officials respect her expertise and opinions about water conservation and sewer issues.”

Jensen was named the Chamber’s Business of the Year In 1993, and in 1997, she served as the chamber president. In 2006, she was named the chamber’s Woman of the Year, and as president of the Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, fearlessly spearheading the administration of grants benefiting the Golden Chain Theatre, the North Fork Library, the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park, and Oakhurst’s 100th Anniversary celebration.

“She’s helped with the paving of the walkway in front of the cemetery to prevent people from having to walk onto the highway, and she followed through with the completion of the town’s bench and trash receptacle project,” White said.

The soft-spoken Jensen said it was an honor to be publicly recognized, after volunteering behind the scenes for 27 years.

Like others, Jensen emphasized the importance of volunteers in the community.

“Since we are not an incorporated city, the struggle to fund improvements is difficult and it takes volunteers to maintain what improvements we have presently - the trees on the roadways, maintaining the River Parkway,and the Pashayan and Tesoro properties,” Jensen said. “While we have struggled to make progress on the major transformations, the sign ordinance has made the view of Highway 41 more pleasing, the River Parkway provides a relaxing alternative to walking on the street, and sidewalks here and there help tourists and locals navigate between motels, events and restaurants.”

She asked people to volunteer just one hour a month to help improve the community and everyone can make a difference.

Jensen is preparing to close her business in June and, along with her husband Brad, will retire in Mexico.

“We have made lifetime friends in this community,” Jensen said.

“Her absence will be deeply felt and the Mountain Area will be poorer without her,” White said.

Former recipients of The Lifetime Achievement Award have been Jack and Jane Gyer (2004), Gary Pence (2005), Harry Baker (2006), Tommie Underwood (2007), May Gene Krieghoff (2010), and Archie Macaulay (2013).

Randy Papike - Ellen Peterson honored

Ahwahnee contractor Randy Papike and Yosemite High School history teacher Ellen Peterson were praised for their dedication to the community as they were introduced as the 2014 Man and Woman of the Year by Dale Miller, and Keith Walker and Math Sconce, respectfully.

Papike and his wife Kandi, high school sweethearts from Lakeside, have lived in Ahwahnee for 25 years, and have owned R. Papike Construction for more than 20 years. He has been a chamber member for 12 years, and has served on the board of directors for several years.

He is a member and past president of Oakhurst Sierra Rotary Club and sits on the board of the Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce Foundation. He is a former board member for the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst and the Mountain Area Soccer League.

He has provided countless volunteer hours to the community, including overseeing the construction of the gazebo in the Oakhurst Community Park, arranging for the Oakhurst Community Park pavilion, many projects for the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst, and the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park.

Papike urged everyone top get involved with a service club.

“It’s all the volunteer work that gets things done here to help the town grow and prosper,” Papike said. “I love this town. It’s the way it works, and this town does it the best.”

He thanked his family and his employees for always being there to help with community projects.

The dynamic Peterson has taught history at Yosemite High since the school opened in 1976. She was named Madera County Teacher of the Year in 1999, and has been named Teacher of the Year by students at YHS numerous times.

She has also been honored for her coaching skills. She was league Coach of the Year twice in softball, five times in basketball, and was a California Track & Field Honoree in 1990. She has been named cross country Coach of the Year in the Central Section, D-III, and D-IV.

Since taking over the school’s cross country program in 1986, Peterson has led the girls team to 24 league titles. The boys team has finished first or second in league for 29 consecutive years.

In introducing Peterson, Walker said Peterson has a passion for teaching and she taught him the importance of history.

“She made history real for me - not just words in a book.” Walker said.

“She changed my life and helped make me who I am,” Sconce said. “She taught us not to limit ourselves and always encouraged us in our pursuit of excellence.”

Fellow YHS teacher Kellie Solomon said Peterson helps others feel important and forms close friendships with those blessed to know her.

“From her current freshman class to her former students now in their 50s, she brings warmth and enthusiasm to our school and town. Ellen has a joyous smile, infectious laugh, and beautiful soul. Her servant’s heart is a gift to our community.”

She is married to John Peterson, a volunteer firefighter with Oakhurst Station 12.

Peterson said teaching at Yosemite High has been the career of her dreams, and called Oakhurst the second happiest place on earth (behind Disneyland).

“This is an unbelievable honor,” Peterson said..

Business of the Year

Sullivan’s Tire Pros owners Mike and Diane Sullivan were introduced by Colette Goga as the Business of the Year.

The couple opened the tire and auto repair business in 2001. Mike has served on the chamber board for several years and was the board’s treasurer for a year.

“You know we have many local businesses that for years upon years - decade upon decade - have supported the community,” Mike said. “We have just tried to emulate them. Business can be tough - in our business we have a wall placard that talks about our vision - mission and ethics statements. Our core values are based on honesty and integrity and trying to do the “right” thing.”

Before leaving the podium, Sullivan issued a couple challenges to his fellow chamber members.

He asked the business owners if they are doing as much local business as possible, utilizing local accountants, attorneys, insurance agents, and said they should all use local businesses as much as possible. He mentioned the chamber’s ‘buy local’ campaign and encouraged the incoming chamber board to take it a step further.

“You (the chamber) should include it in your by-laws and policies that the chamber’s first choice will be local businesses.”

Sullivan said he recently had the privilege to hear Rob O’Neill speak at a convention. O’Neill was the leader of seal team 6 who in 2009 rescued Captain Phillips from Somalian pirates, and was the leader of the seal team 6 who in 2011 was tasked with the raid on Bin Laden’s compound. Sullivan said O’Neill’s values and beliefs are simple and applicable to business:

Plan for the best ... prepare for the worst - take emotion out of decision making - never react ... only respond - Nobody every worked for me ... they worked with me - never give up ... success is closer than you believe - and success is not purchased ... it’s rented day by day.

Executive Director’s Award to EDC

Chamber Executive Director Darin Soukup presented his special award to Bobby Kahn, executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, for the organizations support of the Eastern Madera County Chamber Alliance. The alliance is made up of representatives from the Oakhurst, Coarsegold, Bass Lake, and North Fork chambers working on behalf of common interests in the Mountain Area.

“The Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce does great work on behalf of their community so receiving this award is very special and humbling,” Kahn said. “I was thrilled when the chamber embraced the idea of an Eastern Madera County Chamber Alliance that brought all the chambers together.”

“The EDC was there to provide the “umbrella” organization,” Kahn added, “but much of the work has to be credited to the committee members. It is a pleasure to be part of this energetic group and I look forward to seeing positive outcomes evolve over time. The Oakhurst area is fortunate to have such dedicated leaders that work tirelessly for the betterment of all that call this town their home.”

Rule new chamber president

Chamber officers for 2015 were sworn in by District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, including President Dan Rule (Sierra Tel), who was presented the president’s gavel from outgoing President Todd Miller. Other officers include President Elect Don Eaves (Yosemite Bank), Secretary Donna Davis (The Redwoods in Yosemite), Treasurer Betty Linn (Sierra Star), and Past President Todd Miller (Miller & White CPAs). Newly elected chamber directors are Melanie Barker (realtor with Bass Lake Realty), Anne Driscoll (Branches Books & Gifts), and Shawna Petrushkin (Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.). Re-elected directors are Andrew Pence (W.J. Bradley Mortgage), and Stephanie Simonian (47th Place Carpet One), and continuing directors are Shelle Abbott (Central Valley Community Bank), John Bortz (Century 21 Ditton Realty), and Brian Negley (Emaddco Disposal Service).

Outgoing board members are Chris Baker (Digital Mirrors), Donna Smith (Foster & Parker Insurance), Doug Dearing (retired), and Keith Walker (Movie Heroes, Inc.).