King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture award winners include (from left) Kathy Miller from Business of the Year Aera Energy, Citizen of the Year Steve Adams and Friend of the Community Dawn Owens. All three were recognized during the Chamber’s annual awards dinner Saturday at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds. (Sean Roney/Staff)

KING CITY — King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture hosted its annual awards dinner on Sept. 4 and recognized Citizen of the Year Steve Adams, Business of the Year Aera Energy and Friend of the Community Dawn Owens. 

A crowd of hundreds gathered inside the Orradre Building at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds to honor the trio.

King City Mayor Mike LeBarre spoke about both Adams and Aera.

“We all chose to come here tonight to honor those who exemplify the values we hold dear in this city,” LeBarre said. “We recognize those who are making such a difference.”

LeBarre went through Adams’ personal history and jokingly held up high school transcripts covered in black redaction bars before going on to list the ways his leadership has helped guide the city as city manager.

“Steve Adams exemplifies those qualities that make our city so great,” LeBarre said. “We’re proud that you and your family have become part of our community. Because of you, our city is truly a better place to live, raise a family and have a great life.”

Adams expressed his gratitude for being named Citizen of the Year.

“I’m extremely honored, extremely appreciative and humbled by this award,” Adams said. “I do want to go on the record this evening saying I want to share this award with the city council, with all the city staff who are amazing and so appreciative.”

Adams also highlighted King City community members, including Rotarians, King City in Bloom, Sun Street Centers, St. John the Baptist Church, the Chamber and other community groups.

“I encourage you all to keep working together,” Adams said. “We are becoming a great example of how much you can accomplish when everyone works together and simply focuses on trying to do good things for each other.”

Moving on to the Business of the Year, LeBarre said community involvement is a “value Aera employees live by and genuinely share.”

LeBarre listed different projects and charities the company has helped with, not only in King City, but also in South Monterey County. Among them being a $60,000 donation to renovate the soccer park, renamed Aera Soccer Park.

“Aera has also helped feed the hungry and annually holds food drives,” LeBarre said. “During the past year, they donated over 53,000 pounds of food for those in need.”

Monterey County Office of Education Superintendent Deneen Guss said Aera employees are known for their leadership and involvement in nonprofit organizations.

“What truly sets Aera apart from other companies is what all their employees do personally to help with the community,” Guss said. “They give their time and resources in ways that are impactful.”

Kathy Miller, Aera public affairs coordinator in Monterey County, accepted the award on behalf of the gas and oil production company, which has operations in San Ardo.

“We don’t have commercials on TV, so a lot of people haven’t heard of us, but we do a lot, and a lot of it is behind the scenes,” Miller said. “We take great pride in that, the thing that makes us the proudest is our employees.”

Miller wanted to recognize all the employees from the company, but specifically asked Felix Rodriguez and Ali Zauner on stage, as they were in the audience.

“We are truly humbled and honored to be Business of the Year,” Miller said. “For us, it shows that we are walking on the right path in working with everybody as we build stronger communities.”

Accepting the Friend of the Community award, Owens said the speech by Allie Cullen about her efforts with the Class of 2020 Adopt a Senior and Sought After Stones projects included highlights from some of the 130 seniors helped through her efforts.

“It’s not just me, it was so many other people that helped out,” Owens said. “I’m honored, and embarrassed I guess, but super happy.”

Owens said she just worked to help, and only during the speech heard some of the individual testimony from how much it meant.

“When it didn’t look like any kind of graduation ceremony was going to take place, Dawn and friends organized over 100 decorated cars in a caravan that drove through town so the community could celebrate them,” Cullen said.

Among the testimonies from seniors read by Cullen was Dulce Chavez, who said, “We may have not experienced a traditional graduation, grad night, senior ditch day, sober grad or prom, but luckily we did have an opportunity to feel somewhat normal.”

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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