Chamber salutes businesses at annual awards dinner

Photo by Ron Sundquist – Gary Honeycutt recognizes Rod Geist as Director of the Year.

By Valerie Shelton, Editor


The Clovis Chamber of Commerce held its annual salute to business dinner and awards ceremony on Tuesday, March 1, presenting awards Florence Dunn, the professional business woman of the year, Sierra Specialty Insurance Services, the small business of the year, and Bill and Linda Smittcamp, the Einer Cook Leadership Award recipients.

Nykole Sullivan, owner of Starving Artists Bistro and 2010 recipient of the professional business woman of the year award, presented Dunn. Dunn has served as the president of California Health Science University since 2012, and serves on numerous boards and committees.

“Florence’s strong community ties and expertise are deep rooted in her professional relationship within higher education, health care, business and government, allowing her to appeal to an impressively large number of trustees, comprised of the areas top leaders, to garner community support, resources and facilities necessary to launch the new university,” Sullivan said. “As a decisive, astute leader with strong moral guidance, she recruits dedicated and experienced administration, faculty and staff and their combined collaborative effort allows for pursuit of excellence demonstrated in matriculating the first class for the College of Pharmacy in the fall of 2014. Florence’s unwavering commitment to student success and administration, faculty and staff development empowers the entire college community to achieve their personal and professional goals.”

Dunn said she was honored to accept the award and join past recipients whom she admires and respects.

“Every day I wake up and I pinch myself that I’ve been given this opportunity to start this university,” Dunn said. “I’m a foreign student from Hong Kong and I came here to Fresno to attend Fresno State. The Health and Science University is the brainchild of Darius Assemi who believes the best gift you can give anyone is an education and because of his commitment and the mission of our school, we were able to recruit a very strong leadership board, led by Dr. John Welty, the chair of our board and Deborah Ikeda, our vice chair. This year we are recruited our third class of pharmacy students. I’ve been really impressed and excited by the overwhelming support of the community.”

LaDonna Snow of Snowflake Designs, the 2005 recipient of the small business of the year, presented the owners of Sierra Specialty Insurance Services, Kathy and Mark Schroeder.

“Kathy and Mark Schroeder founded their business of the premise of being recognized in the community, for their high moral character and unparalleled work ethic,” Snow said. “They are committed to serving retail insurance professionals by providing the best possible service price and products. To achieve these goals, the company practices are adapted from an ancient Hebrew book of principles that include being loyal to the customers they serve, maintaining a healthy self concept and dependence on each other, keeping their commitments and agreements which stabilize all of their relationships, creating a healthy intellectual, physical and spiritual balance between work and rest, honor and acknowledge those who have assisted them in life and show gratefulness for what they receive from others and respect others wisdom and experience and then respect, honor and support their own family as well as those families in the community.”

Kathy Schroeder said the honor was unexpected.

“I am so grateful to be accepting this,” Schroeder said. “Clovis is a great place to do business. Diana [Hunnicutt] was walking down the street a year or so ago and asked ‘why aren’t you a chamber member?’ and I said ‘I don’t know’ and we joined and they gave us a big pair of scissors to open up our building on 5th Avenue. I’m accepting this award on behalf of my husband and the people [Sierra Specialty employees] over here at my table.”

Jerry Cook presented the prestigious Einer Cook Leadership Award to Bill and Linda Smittcamp of Wawona Frozen Foods. The Einer Cook Leadership Award is built on four attributes: professional accomplishment, vision, leadership and community service. Cook said the Smittcamp’s meet and surpass each standard.

“Leadership is a great aspect of this and boy, Wawona Foods, I can’t say enough about,” Cook said. “When Bill took over in 1993 as CEO, they were doing about 15 million pounds a years. Now, in the last year, it is in excess of 125 million pounds under their leadership. It’s an international force. Every grocer in North America knows about them. Under there leadership, they have 200 full-time employees and 1,200 part-time employees. They are a major contributor in the economic fabric of our community. Often their product is private labeled in things like pies and pastries so you don’t always recognize their products but more than likely, you’re going to find some of Wawona’s products in food that you get whether it is in restaurants, food stores, through various food services. It is truly very impressive the international reach they’ve established.”

Through all their success, Cook says the Smittcamps have remained humble and are committed to giving back to the community.

“What we call them is a twofer, if you get Linda or Bill for any project you get two volunteers, not one,” Cook said. “What this means is they join in everything and they are always the first one in and last one out. Bill has been an honored chairman and has served on many boards at Valley Children’s Hospital, and Linda has a very high paying job volunteering in the gift shop every Tuesday at Valley Children’s. They have a harvest festival on their farm every year. They were honored as top dog this last year at Fresno State. They remain so humble. Have you seen them at the farmer’s market in their aprons on Pollasky handing out free samples of peaches? I’m so impressed with their dedication to Clovis and the chamber. When we established the Foundation for Clovis Schools, it was Bill Smittcamp who stepped up to be one of the very first chairs to help establish it on a strong footing of philanthropy to support many valuable programs. I can go through a long list of all of his charitable community services. Bill and Linda chaired the campaign to expand Valley Children’s Hospital services and that campaign had a goal and they surpassed it by raising $43 million.

“When we talk about vision and we talk about leadership and we talk about community service and we talk about professional accomplishment, I don’t think we could have a more deserving couple then the one before us.”

True to the character Cook described, Linda Smittcamp accepted the award with great humility.

“Truly we’re blessed to be able to receive this award,” Smittcamp said. “There are many who have come before us and who are totally deserving and Bill and I are just thrilled and honored that you chose us. Clovis is a special place for us. When we first got married, I came from Fresno and I was a city girl and moved out into the country with this farm boy and really didn’t know what I had in store for me. Clovis was important, born and raised he is a Clovis boy, Cougar to the max, and I was a Fresno Bullard girl so it didn’t mix at first. I can remember when we first got married, we did a lot of fun things in Clovis, he was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and we dug right in and did events and fundraising and community service. I was raised that way. My parents were very involved in the community and did volunteer work so it was nothing unusual for me, but Clovis was a special place…The community of Clovis is a unique, unusual place. There is a connection you have with the people who live here and who have lived here. We had kids who worked for us at the packing house that we now see are young men and women with their families and I can’t believe that much time has passed. We’re honored to be a part of it.”

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