Al and Joanne Martinez, Froggy’s and TCWC Honored at Chamber Dinner

Chamber honors “Spirit of Community” at Awards Banquet

Lance Roberts, owner of Froggy’s Topanga Fish Market, did himself proud as host for the Topanga Chamber of Commerce 64th Annual Awards dinner, April 6, a reminder, perhaps, of why he was selected as 2012 Business of the Year. That and a few other things, of course.

Roberts shared the bill with Al and Joanne Martinez, Citizens of the Year, and the Topanga Canyon Watershed Committee (TCWC), named as Non-Profit of the Year.

Each of the honorees was selected for “contributing to the preservation of Topanga’s unique spirit and natural environment. They are singular people and businesses which serve not only Topanga, but our extended Los Angeles family.”

The evening began with wine and hors d’oeuvres and a mixer of familiar friends enjoying a special night out to pay tribute to the 2012 honorees. To the delight of everyone, Derek Thomas and his band, Skyline Drive, provided the evening’s music.

Following a benediction by Chantal Benedict and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Arthur Nissman, Chamber president Joseph Rosendo welcomed all, reminding them that “For more than six decades Topanga’s Chamber of Commerce has paid tribute to Topanga Citizens because we know that those who live and work in our Canyon are our greatest asset.

“In 2012, it became clear that the struggle to protect our canyon never ends. Tonight, Topanga’s business community honors those who have made the preservation and promotion of our canyon’s environment, beauty and unique spirit their business.”

Rosendo also thanked the Chamber “for giving him “the opportunity to be part of this community. There is a difference between being a service and being of service,” Rosendo said as he prepared to present the awards, a plaque with a reproduction of the poster created by Ali Murtaza, photographer Rachel Jackson and artist Tana Roller.

Perhaps, in anticipation of the County’s plans to put telephone wires underground at the junction of Old Topanga Road and New Canyon Blvd., the team made the wires and poles disappear with a little help from Photoshop.

If only the upcoming “Undergrounding” project to mitigate fire hazard and beautify the center of town were that simple and inexpensive.

The best of Topanga’s government officials also attended to present hand-scrolled Certificates of Recognition and Appreciation to the honorees, among them Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, State Sen. Fran Pavley, newly elected Assemblymember Richard Bloom and Capt. Patrick Davoren of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman was unable to attend but sent his congratulations and presented the honorees with a Certificate of Appreciation.

HEARTFELT HONORS

Sen. Pavley was first to take the stage.

“I have 16 other Chamber events to attend,” she said. “But this is my absolute favorite.” When she acknowledged Al and Joanne Martinez as “typical Topangans,” Joanne quipped, “Topanga, my first love.”

“You can explain that to him [Al] later at home,” Pavley retorted, as everyone laughed.

Turning to Roberts, Pavley revealed that she has known him “for about 60 years. Our mothers were friends in college 73 years ago. It’s a small world when we end up sharing the stage together,” she said, adding, “Froggy’s is a wonderful venue for Topanga. May you be around for another 30 years.”

As she honored the TCWC that worked on the TCB Roadside Committee to find alternatives to chemical spraying by Cal Trans on the Boulevard, Pavley explained her part: “When I learned about it, I told [Cal Trans] that this is a priority and that we know there are less toxic solutions. Topanga is now a model,” she said.

“I’m on your side on almost every issue,” she said to the honorees and the room at large. “It’s a pleasure to be here and to continue to serve Topanga,” she concluded.

Richard Bloom made his presentation, saying, “I’m following in the big footsteps of Julia Brownley and I intend to be in the same mold. Your contributions to your community are what make this a cohesive place. It doesn’t happen without people. We can do a lot of good work together,” he said.

Capt. Davoren followed, presenting the honorees with certificates of recognition. He introduced himself as the new head of Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and thanked everyone for the warm welcome. “I have no notes so I’m going to talk from my heart.” To Martinez, he said, “As a young kid I spent all my summers in Oakland. My wife and I read all your columns.” Then to everyone, “I can appreciate all that you do. I will have the people who work for me listen to you.”

“I’M ONLY RETIRING!”

Zev Yaroslavsky ascended the stage to a standing ovation, perhaps because this would be the last Chamber Awards dinner where he would officiate as Supervisor when he retires in 2014.

“I plan to retire next year but I’m not going to die,” he admonished the crowd, only to inspire another round of applause.

“You all know that this is my favorite community in my district,” he continued. “If the Santa Monica Mountains were its own county, Topanga would be the county seat.” Applause, whoops and hollers rang up to the rafters of the former schoolhouse.

Presenting Roberts with a plaque, Yaroslavsky said, “This plaque is better than an ‘A’ rating.”

As he gave another plaque to the TCWC, he said, “We worked very closely with you, as did Fran’s office. It was a teachable moment for Cal Trans and they can take this on the road in other counties, because they do spray all over California.

“It is only because of this community that they modified their approach and what they should do is modify it statewide.”

In his tribute to Al and Joanne, he began, “Only they could have gotten me off the couch on the night of the Final Four!”

Instead of a plaque, Yaroslavsky presented them with a Certificate of Appreciation because, “I wanted to give them the written word,” he said. “Al wrote one of the most beautiful pieces about my parents and friends who came by to toast me for winning [the Third District Supervisorial seat], a piece I still have in my desk drawer. He is a great writer, columnist, raconteur, but every now and then he sneaks in something about Topanga.”

About Joanne, he said, “She has been his Bard, and lifelong partner for 63 years. Together they have sustained each other.”

He then spoke to the room, “People like Al and yourselves are intolerant about one thing: no one is going to mess up Topanga or the ridgelines. Al has taken that to the public.”

Almost as an afterthought, Rosendo and Yaroslavsky quickly gathered the 2013 TCoC Board members on stage, where the supervisor said the words: “By the powers vested in me …,” and the new board—Joseph Rosendo, President; Deborah J. Nellis, VP and Recording Secretary; Ron Kramer, Treasurer; Dianne Porchia, Professional Development and Mixers; April Hinkle, Events; and Christine Ford, Media and Administrative Director—was officially sworn in to continue their good works over the next year in behalf of Topanga businesses and the community at large.

Congratulations to all.