Longtime Lodi physician Dr. Walter Reiss received the Outstanding Citizen of the Year award during a Thursday evening ceremony filled with music, laughter and optimism about the future of the city.
Reiss was one of four award recipients at the Hutchins Street Square ceremony, which also served as the Lodi Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting. After receiving the annual award, Reiss told the audience of more than 200 people that the free medical clinic he helped to found in Lodi has helped both the city's homeless and working families who otherwise can't afford health care.
"We have many families that are unable to buy insurance," Reiss said. "This provides some care for these people."
Chamber President Pat Patrick gave a presentation on his ideas about Lodi's future, which he sees as a marriage between Lodi's agricultural and urban communities. Patrick's plan included a greenbelt of orchards and vineyards surrounding the city that would fuel the city's economy while encouraging tourism.
One aspect of the plan features a series of "vineyardettes": 20-acre vineyards that feature a 1/2-acre home on the property. Those who buy the 20-acre parcels will be able to build on that 1/2 acre, then sell the development rights to the remaining land for conservation. Part of the funding for the program, he said, would come from increased fees charged to developers in the city.
"There's a lot to dream about," Patrick told the audience. "And many of the pieces are already here."
The evening's other award recipients included:
• Donna Rich, the Street Faire Volunteer of the Year. She received the award from her "best friend," Street Faire coordinator Marie Rodriguez.
• Madeline Haugan, the Volunteer of the Year. Outgoing Chamber Board of Directors Chairwoman Kim Ledbetter-Bronson presented the award to Haugan.
Pat Stockar, winner of the Agribusiness Person of the Year Award. (Dan Evans/News-Sentinel)
• Pat Stockar, the Agribusiness Person of the Year. Stockar received the award from Bob Hartzell, the owner of Lodi's Harmony Wynelands.
Stockar, a San Joaquin County Planning Commissioner who also runs cattle and grows grapes in Lodi, said he's not the biggest or the best farmer in the area. He was always willing to volunteer his time, however, something he said many others in Lodi have been happy to do as well.
"You're only as good as the last time you volunteered," Stockar told the audience. "And you're never better until the next time you volunteer."
Between presentations, local musicians took the stage to entertain the audience.
Opening for the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Awards on Thursday night, the Central Valley Youth Orchestra performed an Overture from Handel's Messiah. (Dan Evans/News-Sentinel)
The Central Valley Youth Orchestra, featuring violinists Justin Chen and Geremie Rubustillo, viola player Alex Chang, cellist Gino Garcia and bassist Guilio Cetto, performed several numbers from Handel's Messiah throughout the evening.
Local singer Tami Somera, who is also a vice principal in the Lodi Unified School District, performed her original song "The First Time." Young singers Shannon McElligott and Adrienne Reynolds, who also performed at last year's ceremony, sang "The Lord is my Shepherd."
Tammy Somera performs her original song, "The First Time," during Thursday night's Outstanding Citizen of the Year celebration. (Dan Evans/News-Sentinel)
Last year's Outstanding Citizen award recipient, Sarah Heberle, hosted the event with Patrick. The 87-year-old retired teacher kept the crowd laughing throughout the evening with jokes between speakers.
"I wonder if she has an agent," said Lodi Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Joe Harrington after Heberle introduced him as a presenter.
Later in the evening, he got his answer.
"I am Sara's agent," Patrick said during the event's closing remarks.
The celebration and awards ceremony is an annual event. Following the awards presentation, the audience joined a wine and appetizers reception.
Contact Business Editor Greg Kane at firstname.lastname@example.org.