Rachel Brown Hackney
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce honored a number of people during its Annual Awards Dinner, which was held on Jan. 30 at Marina Jack in Sarasota.
Among those recognized was Vern Johnson, who received the Sharon Cunningham Visitor Center Volunteer of the Year Award for his 20 years of service.
To say Johnson’s face is familiar to Chamber visitors is an understatement, as this reporter can attest. His voice also has welcomed many a caller to the Chamber over the past couple of decades.
Another big honor — Volunteers of the Year — went to a married couple, Robert and Catherine Luckner, who both are on the board of the Siesta Key Association (SKA).
Catherine, who is president, and Robert Luckner have worked over the past seven years to try to prevent the removal of sand from Big Sarasota Pass to renourish about 1.56 miles of South Lido Key Beach.
The other winners were as follows:
• Gidget’s Coastal Provisions — Small Business of the Year. Gidget’s, which stands on Ocean Boulevard, is owned by Brian and Trudy Wigelsworth.
• John Dooley — Shining Star Award. Dooley is a member of the staff of the Law Offices of Eric C. Fleming. Traditionally, the Shining Star Award has been presented to an exceptional employee nominated by his or her employer, or an employer nominated by one or more of their employees.
• Cindy Turner, manager of the Beaches and Water Access Division of the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) — Community Partner.
Ann Frescura, executive director of the Chamber, told SNL during a telephone interview that the Community Partner Award this year was planned to recognize Turner individually for all of her assistance with major Chamber events, as well as the entire Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department. “It really is more of a team effort,” Frescura said of the help the Chamber receives from county staff.
Jonathan Poyner, program coordinator with PRNR, joined Turner in accepting the award.
Frescura noted that Poyner received an award himself “a few years ago” from the Chamber.
“We have three of the larger events in the area,” she continued, referring to the July Fourth fireworks show and the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival — both of which are held at Siesta Public Beach — and the annual Easter Egg Hunt, which has been held at Turtle Beach Park in recent years. The 2020 children’s event is scheduled at the same venue on April 11.
“They all require that county partnership [to succeed],” Frescura added of those major, annual Chamber activities.
• Steve Cavanaugh of Tropical Sands Accommodations/RE/MAX Tropical Sands — Business Person of the Year.
• Hope McCampbell-Wenk — Siesta Selfless Award.
• Service & Leadership Award — Maria Bankemper, who has chaired the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival for most of its existence. Bankemper also is co-owner of the Best Western Plus Siesta Key Gateway Hotel, which is located at 6600 S. Tamiami Trail.
The 2020 board officers are as follows: Chair — Mason Tush of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters; Immediate Past Chair — Eric Fleming of the Law Offices of Eric Fleming P.A.: Chair-Elect — Steve Cavanaugh of Tropical Sands Accommodations/ RE/MAX Tropical Sands; Treasurer — Kara Altice-Montes of Altez Vacations; and Secretary — Gabe Hartman of, The Inn on Siesta Key.