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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 12:48 pm | Fair 66º


Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce Holds Annual Awards Gala

Top citizens and local businesses win awards, including Testa Catering and Red Dog Management


A pair of homegrown, family-owned businesses, one known for serving Santa Maria-style barbecue and the other for growing the valley's signature red berry, landed in the spotlight on Thursday night.

Martin and Debi Testa, of Testa Catering, captured the Small Business Award at the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Installation and Awards Gala while Red Dog Management's Greg and Donna France received the Large Business of the Year Award.

The annual awards banquet at the Radisson Hotel had 300 people in the audience and also honored Bill Wurth, who received the Robert P. Hatch Citizen of the Year Award, and retired police chief Ralph Martin, who received the Robert F. Grogan Public Service Award.

Testa Catering, founded in 1983, specialized in Santa Maria-style barbecue, helping spread it beyond the Central Coast.

The company now serves small intimate five-star dining and large parties topping 2,000 people with varied menus. The Testas own Testa's Bistro plus are the food service caterer at Allan Hancock College and operate the Campus Market Food Court. 

“This year's recipient of the Small Business of the Year Award is not only known well in the community for the quality of product and service that they provide but also for their caring, their generosity, their community spirit,” said award presenter Janet Silveria from Community Bank of Santa Maria. 

“Everything that Martin and Debi live in their personal lives they bring into their business and they translate that into success.”

The Testas expressed appreciation for the recognition and said they shared it with their entire team and family.

“Catering is a lot of a work but also a lot of fun,” Debi Testa said. “We have so many great memories and have been to so many amazing venues. We have met some of greatest people and have seen some of the greatest ranches in this area.”

The 10-year-old Red Dog Management, owned and led by Greg and Donna France, grows conventional and organic strawberries as first-generation farmers. They started with 175 acres and now grow 900 acres, employing 1,200 people in various companies. 

“In order for a community to grow and succeed you need strong employers and a healthy investment market,” said Cameron Stephens, the chamber's new chairman of the board who presented the award. “When those assets come together in a business that also features local decision making and a commitment to being part of the community where they operate, everyone wins.”

The Frances encourage their employees to give back to the community and are active in assorted organizations including the Santa Barbara Foundation, California Strawberry Commission and Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Maria Valley.

“I can't tell you how much we thank you for this award,” Greg France said. “It's pretty awesome. We're very humbled.”

Bill Wurth was presented with the Citizen of the Year Award during the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce annnual gala on Thursday night. At 91, he remains an active volunteer in the community. Click to view larger
Bill Wurth was presented with the Citizen of the Year Award during the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce annnual gala on Thursday night. At 91, he remains an active volunteer in the community. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

He also offered thanks to their employees — “but really you guys go away beyond our employees” — calling them much more than family. 

“One thing, for me, that's been always incredible is Santa Maria people,” he said, noting the community has embraced the Frances. 

Wurth, at 91 years old and a World War II veteran, remains an active volunteer. During his 23 years with the Santa Maria Elks, he has been involved in assorted activities including the Tuesday bingo and Thursday visits or calls to those who are sick or in distress.

On Wednesdays, he can be found serving as a docent at the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society, and on Sundays he helps at Orcutt Presbyterian Church.

Martin, who arrived in Santa Maria in 2012, recently retired after transforming the Police Department over the past five years. He previously retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The Chamber of Commerce also honored its top Ambassador, Charlene Paz, noting her enthusiastic support for the organization.

The Ted Eckert Lifetime Community Achievement Award went to Cary Gray for his involvement in Leadership Santa Maria along with numerous other community events. 

As one of this final acts, outgoing chairman Ed Carcarey handed out an award to Tim Murphy, Elks Rodeo Parade chairman. 

Stephens, who replaced Carcarey, said he declined to talk about economic forecast or stock market outlook in his speech as chairman.

“All I can tell you is the Santa Maria Valley is, I believe, and forever will be a great place to start a business, grow a business and watch a business flourish,” Stephens said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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