Submitted by: The Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce

The Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce celebrated another successful year for local businesses at its 14th Annual Awards Dinner on Thursday, December 6, at the Four Points by Sheraton and presented by First Federal. This year’s awards recognized individuals and businesses for their contributions to the county, as ten awards were presented to deserving winners.

Pictured from the bottom left: Hans Erchinger-Davis of Lighthouse Mission Ministries; Ellie Margulies, Flex Movement Lab; Lori Reece, RE/MAX Whatcom County; Rand Jack, Whatcom Land Trust; Wendy Eickmeyer, Spark Museum; Sue DeLeon, Bob Wallin Insurance; Cameron Stewart, Minuteman Press; Kevin Coleman, WhatcomTalk; Stacee Sledge, WhatcomTalk; John Barron, Barron Heating & Air Conditioning. Photo credit: Radley Muller Photography.

This year was unique as we had two married couples vying for awards. Josh and Nicole Burdick were finalists for the Man and Woman of the Year while Keith and Kevin Coleman were both finalists for Man of the Year.

The chamber also revised the criteria for the Man and Woman of the Year awards.

The finalists for Man and Woman of the Year were evaluated based on their noteworthy accomplishments and recent successes during 2017-2018 which may include successful increase sales and/or unit volume of product or service, demonstrated creativity and imagination which directly impacted a product or service, inspirational personality which leave fellow employees and clients with a positive impression. Finalists were honored based on the following criteria: demonstrated excellence in client service, ethics, community and personal outreach, innovation, leadership and inspiration.

“We wanted to award individual members who are doing an excellent job right now. The previous format for Man and Woman of the Year were based on lifetime achievements and celebrating professionals who were at the end of their careers,” said Shelli Jones, Marketing Coordinator for the Bellingham Regional chamber of Commerce.

The finalists for the Man of the Year were:

  • Josh Burdick, Veritas Media Productions
  • Keith Coleman, Springhill Suites by Marriott
  • Kevin Coleman, WhatcomTalk

The award recipient was Kevin Coleman of WhatcomTalk.

About Kevin:

Kevin Coleman won Man of the Year. Photo credit: Radley Muller Photography.

Kevin Coleman’s personal mantra—be the ripple of positivity—was the perfect fit for WhatcomTalk when he came on board as the business development & community relations manager.

His job is to find the positive stories throughout the county, and share them via WhatcomTalk.com. Through his work, he gets to play match-maker connecting businesses and people who would work well together.

In 2017, Kevin had what he describes as “an empowering experience.” He realized that he could let the world affect him, or he could affect the world.

He chose the latter; which energized him to turn his talent for art into his own force for good. Kevin has given nearly a dozen paintings to charity fundraisers, and teaches kids at the Boys and Girls Club about art and creativity.

The finalists for Woman of the Year were:

  • Lynn Murphy, Puget Sound Energy
  • Nicole Burdick, Waddell & Reed
  • Stacee Sledge, WhatcomTalk

The award recipient was Stacee Sledge of WhatcomTalk.

About Stacee:

Stacee Sledge won Woman of the Year. Photo credit: Radley Muller Photography.

Stacee Sledge has a long history in publishing. She started her career 25 years ago at Better Homes & Gardens magazine, which fueled her interest in feature writing and editing.

Stacee is passionate about local journalism, and launched WhatcomTalk.com in 2014 to fill the void left by a shrinking traditional media. She built the online community social network to tell the positive stories about people, businesses and organizations all around our county.

Through her work at WhatcomTalk, Stacee is able to make connections in the community and build relationships. Having published nearly 2,500 feature articles and counting, WhatcomTalk is a valued community resource. Sharing good news is good business and Stacee loves being a part of such a positive journalistic movement.

The CEO of the Year award is given to a CEO, President, Chairman or General Manager who demonstrates a clear, consistent vision for their company, has proven sound professional judgment and ethics, is highly respected among peer and competitors, and is trusted by investors and the community. The CEO of the Year empowers his/her employees and is a steady employer in our community. He/she is able to balance the needs of consumers, employees and investors and is a positive influence on his/her industry.

The following were the CEO of the Year finalists:

  • Aaron Nelson, 2020 Solutions
  • John Barron, Barron Heating
  • Lori Reece, RE/MAX of Whatcom County
Emcees Chris Roselli and Mauri Ingram congratulate CEO of the Year award recipient John Baron of Barron Heating & AC. Award sponsor Christian Christensen of Bank of the Pacific awaits with the trophy. Photo courtesy: Radley Muller Photography.

We awarded John Barron of Barron Heating and AC with the CEO of the Year award, who, in his acceptance speech, informed the audience of his father’s death the day before the award ceremony.

About John:

For John Barron, his family business is about more than just heating or cooling a house. It’s about improving lives by enhancing home comfort, improving health through air flow and circulation, and boosting energy efficiency in customers’ homes.

John bought the company from his parents 20 years ago, and since then has shifted focus from new construction to residential services—allowing the 4th generation company to make more personal connections with the customers they serve.

John also understands that you can’t take care of your external customers, without first taking care of your internal ones. John strives to develop a personal understanding of his team—finding their passions outside of work, and translating that to a good fit within the company.

The finalists for the Nonprofit of the Year award were:

  • Lighthouse Mission
  • Lydia Place
  • Secret Harbor

The award recipient was Lighthouse Mission Ministries.

About Lighthouse:

The creative new awards were a big hit at the awards dinner. Photo courtesy: Radley Muller Photography.

Since 1923, Lighthouse Mission Ministries has been a consistent friend to those experiencing homelessness in Whatcom County.

Throughout their four-building campus, the Lighthouse Mission practices radical hospitality and empowerment solutions through their homeless outreach van and mobile shower trailer, the 24/7 crisis-support Drop-in Center, and in-depth men’s and women’s recovery programs; creating a ripple effect of life-long health, transformation, and reintegration as participating members of our community.

Serving over 250 people each day, Lighthouse Mission Ministries delivers faith-based healing environments, and total life-recovery with dignity and hope that everyone they serve can break the cycle of homelessness in their lives.

The criteria for Small and Large Business of the Year is based on criteria including company management, community service and contribution exceeding the scope of the company’s mission, economic stability, ethics and integrity, growth of the company, new jobs created in the community, and upward mobility for employees. Companies considered will be those who put resources and energy back into Bellingham and Whatcom County. Small businesses have 20 or fewer employees. Large businesses must have 21 or more employees.

The finalists for the Small Business of the Year award were:

  • Bob Wallin Insurance
  • FizzPOP Media
  • Salish Wealth Management

We were honored to present the Small Business of the Year award to Bob Wallin Insurance.

About Bob Wallin:

Bob Wallin Insurance won Small Business of the Year. Photo credit: Radley Muller Photography.

The mission at Bob Wallin Insurance isn’t to simply “sell insurance.” It’s to build lasting relationships with their clients, and help them make informed decisions

That approach started with the company’s founder, Bob Wallin. Bob passed away five years ago but his legacy lives on. Bob had a passion for insurance and for people. He could walk up to anyone and strike up a conversation!

Bob simply wanted to help others. That legacy means the team today doesn’t turn anyone away, and every day they strive to make a difference.

And that makes a difference to the employees. The average employee has been with the company at least 15 years and one has been there for 30! The supportive atmosphere and Bob’s spirit keeps them moving forward.

The Large Business of the Year finalists were:

  • Bank of the Pacific
  • RE/MAX Whatcom County
  • Signs Plus
The dynamic duo Mauri Ingram of Whatcom Community Foundation and Chris Roselli of Western Washington University kept the audience entertained. Photo courtesy: Radley Muller Photography..

The Large Business of the Year was awarded to RE/MAX Whatcom County.

About RE/MAX:

When RE/MAX Whatcom County opened in 1991, it was only the third RE/MAX office in the entire state. It’s since expanded to four offices in Bellingham, Sudden Valley, Lynden and Anacortes.

RE/MAX Whatcom County employs, trains and supports 125 local, full-time real estate professionals.

The brokerage has been recognized as an industry leader, not only in our county, but on a national level as well by RE/MAX International. The team has earned the “Pace Setter of the Year” award, and Multi-Office Volume Awards for 12 consecutive years!

Just last year, Re/Max Whatcom County closed over 650 million dollars in sales, and was ranked among the top 400 real estate companies in the United States.

RE/MAX Whatcom County has helped thousands of families in our community achieve their dreams of home ownership

Nominations for the Man, Woman, CEO, Small Business, Large Business, and Nonprofit of the Year awards are submitted by the public and Chamber of Commerce members. Upon submission, the nominations are evaluated by the Annual Awards Committee consisting of active Chamber members who volunteer to serve on the committee. The committee determines the four finalists for the Small and Large Business of the Year. The committee visits the finalists and conduct interviews to ensure that all businesses are asked the same questions. The results of the interviews are used to review each finalist.

Nominations were accepted through August 17, 2018 at which point the Annual Award Committee evaluated the nominations and determined the three finalists for each award.

Additionally, awards were presented to the Tourism Business of the Year, Young Professional of the Year, Chamber Ambassador of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement recipient.

Those award winners are:

Young Professional of the Year: Ellie Margulies of Flex Movement Lab

Tourism Business of the Year: Spark Museum

Kevin Coleman [Man of the Year] and Stacee Sledge {Woman of the Year] during the ceremony. Photo courtesy: Radley Muller Photography.

About the Spark Museum:

The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in downtown Bellingham traces the continuous thread of electrical discovery and invention all the way from the 1600s! It also features the nation’s largest private collection of 19th century “tech.”

The Museum consistently ranks on TripAdvisor as the number one museum experience in Bellingham, attracting people who want to see the incredible electrical shows, starring the MegaZapper—the country’s largest Tesla Coil emitting 4 million volts. The spark Museum was also chosen as the 2018 Best Museum in the Northwest by Bellingham Alive Magazine.

The Spark Museum’s early investment in downtown Bellingham has been a solid influence in the revitalization of the City Center and a natural draw for tourists.

Chamber Ambassador of the Year: Cameron Stewart of Minuteman Press

About Cameron:

Cameron Stewart is known to many for his giving spirit. He can be found volunteering for the Chamber’s Networking Breakfasts, Business After Business events and Ribbon Cuttings – building relationships and helping everyone feel welcome.

Cameron has 22 years’ experience as a Direct Mail Specialist, and enjoys the variety of projects he gets to work on at Minuteman Press.

He is also co-owner of Zig Zag & Ragz Z Clowns with his wife, Alyse. Together they create smiles and memories with family entertainment using skills they’ve learned over the last 31 years. He also volunteers at Boys and Girls Club events and enjoys playing “Santa’s Helper” for Lydia Place families.

Lifetime Achievement: Rand Jack

In his 40-plus year career as a conservationist, educator and attorney, Rand Jack has viewed the law as a lens to observe, understand and better the world.

After graduating from Princeton and Yale Universities, Rand practiced law in Seattle, then continued to Western Washington University where he taught for 33 years. There, he founded the Law and Diversity Program at Fairhaven College, which aims to support and prepare students from under-represented groups in the legal profession.

Now retired from teaching, Rand divides his free time among the things he loves most: his family, woodworking, travel, and conservation.

As a founding member of Whatcom Land Trust, Rand helped negotiate many of the major conservation projects we all enjoy today, including: Governors Point, Galbraith Mountain, the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve, Teddy Bear Cove, Lilypoint and Point Whitehorn Marine Reserves; and, the 2200 acre Canyon Lake Community Forest.

“The Annual Awards Dinner provides us with the chance to recognize member businesses and business professionals that excel in our community and lead by example,” said Jones. “It’s very fulfilling when Award Dinner attendees tell us how energized and motivated they feel after the ceremony. Between the finalist videos and the acceptance speeches, people leave the event inspired and that’s the best result we could ask for.”

Videos of each award finalist can be found at https://vimeo.com/album/5591101. The award videos have been produced by Veritas Media Productions for the past four years. The videos were voiced over by Mandy Richards and Dave Walker of KAFE radio.

The 2019 Annual Awards Dinner will be held on Thursday, December 5.

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