Reggie Gibson accepts her award for Ambassador of the Year.
TARPON SPRINGS – In the early morning of Nov. 6, many Tarpon Springs businesses were left in the hands of the assistants. Their owners were busy being awarded for their contributions to the community.
About 100 people crowded Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill for the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, owners and representatives of the businesses that line Tarpon Avenue and Dodecanese Boulevard and everywhere in between.
Chamber president Sue Thomas and chairman Reggie Gibson led the meeting, which began with an induction of the board of directors who were sworn in by Karen Lemmons, the economic development manager for the city of Tarpon Springs. Gibson, vice chairman Kim O’Kelley, secretary/treasurer Rollin Sutfin, Michelle Rintz, Todd Unbehaged and Thomas will serve as officers next year. Debbie Humphrey, Christie Johnson, Dee Isguzar, Cliff LePoer, Elaine Post, Madeline Robinson and Tracey Swade will continue as directors. Incoming board members Leslie DiPaci, Stacy Hanson, Mike Herrera, Lisa Obst and Dave Wright also were sworn in.
The judges for the Businesses of the Year awards had so much difficulty choosing winners, Thomas said, that she wanted to recognize all of the nominees for their impact in Tarpon Springs: small businesses – Juice Marketing, Fireleaf Design, Green Tech Pest Conrol, Mad Hatter General Store and Edmar Outfitters; medium businesses – Tarpon Tavern, Unbehagen Advisors and One Hour Air Conditioning and Heating, and large businesses – Image Media and Walmart.
Mad Hatter General Store was awarded Small Business of the Year, and special awards were given to Juice Marketing as Rising Star and Edmar Outfitters for community leadership.
Unbehagen Advising was awarded Medium Business of the Year, while Kim O’Kelley of One Hour Air Conditioning and Heating was awarded for her community leadership.
Image Media was given the Large Business of the Year award as well as Overall Business of the Year for their potential to skyrocket, Thomas said.
Tom Bigler of Walmart also was given an award for his individual leadership within Tarpon Springs.
Computer repair shop 321 Geeks was given the “New Kid on the Block” award for “just coming in and taking over everything,” Thomas said.
Gibson was awarded Ambassador of the Year for her work with the chamber and the community, including her role as chairman of the 7 Chamber Summer Splash.
The President’s Award, usually given to an individual, was instead awarded to the city of Tarpon Springs this year.
“We have a phenomenal city,” Thomas said. “It’s led by a city manager who’s not building a resume but a career. Bringing in Karen (Lemmons) was the best thing they could do. Without Judy (Staley), we wouldn’t have had 35,000 people at a first time event.”
Sherry Wendt was awarded Chamber Partner of the Year, specifically for her work on adding benches and flowers to Hibiscus Street.
“As much as I’ve given,” she said, “I’ve gotten back.”