EL CENTRO – The El Centro Chamber of Commerce held its 111th annual dinner meeting Thursday at the Mirage Room at the Naval Air Facility El Centro to honor their donors and ambassadors and capped the evening with the announcement of Jaime Honold as the Business Leader of the Year.
The majority of the crowd mingled at the silent auction tables and the bar until called to be seated by emcee Darla Willis, chamber CEO. After the presenting of the colors, and NAF sailor Nikki Grant singing the national anthem, incoming chamber president Jeff Sturdevant gave the invocation.
Outgoing president Les Smith formally passed his gavel on to Sturdevant. Sturdevant, in turn, presented Smith with certificates of recognition by representatives of State Senator Ben Hueso and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia.
Willis accepted the Cal Chamber 2017 President’s Circle Award presented by the California Chamber of Commerce. El Centro was one of only 29 local chambers to receive the prestigious award in recognition for excellence in business advocacy and helping members comply with labor laws. This was the second year El Centro has won the award.
Out of the chamber’s many ambassadors, five were given special recognition: Mike Castro of Rogers & Rogers and Styles and Smiles; Maribel Espinoza, People Ready; Diane Moreno-Inman, Accion San Diego; Betty Tucker, Kiwanis; and top ambassador, Victor Platero of Lamar Advertising.
The Chamber Ambassadors serve as volunteers on behalf of the El Centro Area Chamber of Commerce and are dedicated to promoting the city’s business community and expanding the Chamber membership and retention.
The excitement of the evening culminated with the not-so-surprise announcement of Jaime Honold as the recipient of the William G. Duflock “Business Leader of the Year” award. Honold is the founder and CEO of Burgers and Beer, with two locations in El Centro and four expansions, one in Yuma and the three others in Southern California.
“Oh wow, amazing!” Honold grinned as he accepted the award. “It is an honor to be a part of the great group of people who received this award before me. My faith motivates me to help and work. I am Catholic and that is what they teach us from when we are little, that is how we grow up. You have to build your community up and help other people as well.”
The surprise came early when his name was inadvertently read from a congressional proclamation instead of the certificate of recognition for outgoing past president, Les Smith.
“We get nominations from the community,” Willis said as she explained the process to choose the top business leader. “The committee evaluates all the names submitted. Once we thought of all of Jaime’s commitments, not only to the chamber, but to the community at large, we knew we had the right person. Anywhere you look, you see banners saying, ‘Sponsored by Burgers and Beer,’ not only in our community but Yuma, Temecula, Coachella Valley. He has a heart of gold.”