By Marg Jackson
In a festive night, awards were bestowed upon Oakdale citizens, businesses, outstanding youths and community service organizations.
The annual Chamber of Commerce awards dinner was hosted Jan. 19 and Chamber CEO Mary Guardiola said it was a good crowd that turned out to see and congratulate the honorees and the winners.
“We had about 220 people there, a good group and it was a very nice evening,” Guardiola said, with the event catered by the local Medlen’s House of Beef.
Big winners on the night were Gilton Solid Waste Management as Large Business of the Year, Mt. Mike’s Pizza as Small Business of the Year, Oakdale Youth Sports Association as the Community Service Group of the Year, with co-honorees Marissa Raggio and Breanna Morgan chosen as the Junior Achievement winners. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Don Riise.
Named as the Citizen of the Year was Pete Simoncini.
“First off I’d like to thank God, not just for the wonderful honor but also for all of the blessings He has given us in the great town of Oakdale,” Simoncini said in his remarks to the crowd. “I honestly did not think I would be named the Citizen of the Year because of the qualifications and contributions of the fabulous ladies nominated with me, Pamela Kelly and Cherilyn Bairos. Both are truly deserving of this award. It’s amazing that I am rewarded for doing something that for me is fun.”
Simoncini has been involved in a number of community events and is known as ‘The Voice of the Mustangs’ for the multiple sporting events he emcees throughout the school year. Other notable contributions range from emceeing the annual Relay For Life for the past 10 years to assisting with church functions, emceeing the Distinguished Young Women program put on by the Soroptimist International of Oakdale and more.
He also offered thanks to administrators at the Oakdale Joint Unified School District for his nomination and pointed to the continuing efforts of his colleagues within the district that work to make Oakdale schools the best in the region.
“Most of all, I want to salute my children, Niki and Peter, and the love of my life and the wind beneath my wings, my beautiful wife, Becky,” Simoncini added. “Becky is my support and my strength, giving up our time together so I can announce and have fun. She is my everything and I love her infinitely.”
He said they arrived in Oakdale in 1999 “quite by chance” but feel blessed to be part of a community with such neighborly, generous and caring people.
“I thank the Chamber for this fantastic honor,” Simoncini concluded. “I am humbled and extremely grateful.
The evening is designed to showcase the very best the community has to offer, Guardiola explained, and she feels that this year’s edition did just that, with all winners and nominees standouts in their own way.
“It was a great group of people (nominated) but it is every year because this is a great community,” Guardiola said.
Representatives from the winning businesses and service organization were on hand to pick up their plaques and pose for photos, as were the Junior Achievement co-award winners, Lifetime honoree Riise and Citizen of the Year honoree Simoncini.