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Chamber Honors Community Leaders

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Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce held its annual Community Awards and Installation Dinner last night.

Anthony Pallante joined the prestigious list of winners of the “Citizen of the Year” award. Pallante is a Minister, former teacher and coach, longtime member of the Kiwanis Club, and volunteer for countless events and causes. “I feel very humbled in receiving this award,” he said. “I recognize the names on the list, and they are outstanding citizens. And I saw a lot of names of people that are not here any longer, and they were people I looked up to.”

Other award winners:

Entrepreneur of the Year – Jay Watson

Jay Watson and his wife Judy started Indigeny Reserve in Sonora. The fast growing company produces hard cider, brandy and vodka. It was noted that Watson previously owned and operated a communications business that ran communication repeater sites, satellite uplink facilities, and cable TV within the business district of San Francisco.

Small Business of the Year – Cole Video

Cole Przybyla operates Cole Video out of downtown Sonora. He has over 40 clients across California, including from areas as far away as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Locally, his film production company has helped groups like the Tuolumne County Transportation Council, Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, City of Sonora and Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority.

Teacher of the Year – Kelli Noteman O’Brien

Kelli Noteman O’Brien is a Tuolumne County native and teacher at Sonora Elementary School. She currently is an art teacher for students ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade. She notes that her greatest accomplishment has been her choice to work with children and make a difference in their lives.

Non-Profit of the Year – Interfaith Social Services

Established in 1988, Interfaith serves the urgent living needs of those struggling in Tuolumne County. The group serves over 800 families each month and is governed by a volunteer board of sponsoring churches and community volunteer advisors.

Excellence In Government – Ann Connolly

Ann Connolly has been the Tuolumne County Human Services Agency Director for six years and manages more than 40 programs within Social Services, Behavioral Health, Public Health, and other areas. She has also helped out by volunteering with Girl Scouts, coaching soccer and participating in PTA.

Administrative Professional of the Year – Christina Cunha

Christina Cunha is the Executive Assistant for the Tuolumne County Administrators Office, and she serves five professional staff members. She is a Tuolumne County native and has worked in various areas of county government. She has been praised for her “exceptional customer service skills,” and was a key member of the first ever Tuolumne County Customer Service Training Program.

Students of the Year are Destinee Kennedy of Tioga High School, Jonathan Horak of Summerville High School, and Steven Grolle of Sonora High School.

Last night’s event was held at the Black Oak Casino Resort. It also featured the formal introduction of new Chamber CEO Mike Ayala and the new Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Wendy Gast.

  • Cathie Peacock