It was a night of proclamations, congratulations and sentimental tears, as the Oakley Chamber of Commerce celebrated the town's most prominent residents last weekend during the annual Citizen of the Year awards gala.
Held for the first time at the new Oakley Civic Center, the evening was a glitzy, glamorous event featuring a silent auction, raffle prizes and dinner catered by Black Bear Diner.
Surrounded by well-wishers, family and friends, the honorees were recognized for their tireless contributions to the community.
Master of Ceremonies and Chamber President Steve Nosanchuk presented the Citizen of the Year award to Oakley City councilman and former mayor Kevin Romick. A visibly moved Romick offered his thanks to the chamber and the community, but saved his warmest words for his family.
You know a lot of people have called me the Mr. Everywhere Mayor, said Romick in reference to his near-perfect attendance at community functions. But the problem when you are Mr. Everywhere Mayor is that there is one place you aren't very much, and that's home, said a teary Romick. And I would like to thank my wife and daughters for their constant support. I am truly honored.
The Pioneer Award went to longtime resident and Oakley icon Rico Cinquini for his trail-blazing faith and support in the community, but it was Lenny Byer who stole the show with his good-natured roasting of his friend Rico.
Rico, my friend, you are very deserving of this (award). I don't know what you're going to get, but you're very deserving.
In accepting his award, Cinquini thanked the community that had given him so much over so many years.
You know I have always believed in and loved Oakley, he said. I feel I have before me tonight a lot of pioneers who are shaping our town In parting, I have to say tonight, I really do feel old.
Other awards of the evening included the Volunteer Service Award, which went to Jack Mogg for his efforts on behalf of countless organizations, including Meals on Wheels. Most of my best work is done behind the scenes, said Mogg. I'm a pretty private person, but I thank you for this honor.
Business Person of the Year was Craig Fischer, manager of the Oakley Raley's. Fischer was recognized for his efforts on behalf of Raley's and the store's participation in the Oakley Concert Series, local fishing tournaments and the Freedom High School Safe and Sober graduation program. Fischer, who was recently reassigned to the Lodi store, thanked the community for its support.
Youth Volunteer of the Year was Lauren Lagano, a senior at Freedom High School who works with the Oakley Parks and Recreation Department, in addition to her other community services. Recreation Supervisor Denis Nishihara accepted the award on behalf of Lauren, who was out of town for Mother's Day.
I'm not Lauren, although I am a handsome man, said Nishihara. I accept this award for Lauren, who was a no-show because she for some reason thought Mother's Day was more important.
Nosanchuk, who presented the President's Award, an honor chosen by the Chamber President to a recipient who goes above and beyond in service to the chamber, said the choice was simple.
It was easy for me to choose (Chamber Secretary) Noelle Young, he said. She is the one, for good or bad, that I rely on and who organized this whole event this evening.
For more photos of the Oakley Citizen of the Year dinner, go to www.thepress.net.