In the past 12 years that Andrew Vallejos has worked as the Soboba Foundation Sponsorship Coordinator, he has come to know almost every business owner and nonprofit director in the San Jacinto Valley. So it makes sense for him to take the gavel as the newest Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce Chairman at its annual Installation and Awards Gala on June 24.
The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has a long history with the Chamber, since its original casino became a member in 1991 and the Soboba Casino Resort continued that membership after it opened in early 2019.
Vallejos has been on the Chamber’s board of directors for the past six years and just completed his one-year term as Vice Chairman. He is succeeding Dr. Vince Record, who served two years as Chairman.
Cyndi Lemke, the Chamber’s Executive Director, welcomed everyone to the black-tie event and shared a brief history of the organization’s local chapter, whose roots date back to 1919 with the City of San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce.
“In 1920, the City of Hemet established a Chamber of Commerce with its first Chairman, Irwin Farrar leading the organization. Move forward to 1999 and the two original Chambers of Commerce joined together as one, unifying the valley business community,” she said. “Today, the combined Hemet San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce membership is over 500 from throughout the region, meeting the needs of the business community.”
Record took to the podium to thank the three outgoing 2020-2021 board members for their contributions, dedication and commitment to making the valley the best it can be for the entire community. Due to the pandemic, there was no in-person gala to give them a proper sendoff.
Richard Perry, who served as a past Chairman, “led our Chamber through several challenges with his calm and steady demeanor, sense of humor and his business expertise. He continued to guide me this year and his influence and legacy will continue to benefit the Chamber for years to come.”
Dan Goodrich was thanked for his service, sharing his experience in business and with other Chambers “to help us make informed decisions that kept us focused on our purpose and to help strengthen the business environment of our community to benefit all who call this valley their home.”
“Past Chairman Dr. G (Roberto Guadamuz) continues to be one of the most active community leaders in the Valley, and his influence extends far beyond the Chamber. He has led many of the events and initiatives that have shaped our Chamber, instilled a sense of stability and purpose, and participated in Chamber events and functions whether he has been a board member or not. He will always be a valuable resource for the future of our Chamber.
As incoming Chairman, Vallejos was asked to recognize the 2021-2022 outgoing board members. James Davis, manager of Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, arranged very generous donations of materials for several of the Chamber’s community service projects.
Guillermo Alcazar brought to the Board “his skills in social media and helped us improve our communication to members and the community.” John Petersen was thanked for keeping the Chamber on track and making sure it had an effective risk management plan in plan. “His expertise ensured that the Chamber minimized its liability working and organizing events within the community,” Vallejos said.
Soboba Tribal Chairman Isaiah Vivanco was then asked to take to the stage to officially install Vallejos as the Chamber’s 2022-2023 Chairman of the Board. This is the first time that a Tribal Chairperson has installed an HSJV Chamber Chairman and Vivanco thanked the Chamber for allowing him to take part in the event. He said it was great to see all the civic leaders as well as the business leaders of the valley in attendance.
“Without you, this doesn’t happen,” he told the crowd. “I can’t say enough about Andrew. You are going to get someone who is very dedicated, punctual, hardworking and I know that he’ll be bringing his best to the Chamber.”
He added that Vallejos is a big part of the Soboba team. “He’s been doing this for many years,” Vivanco said. “He’s a big part of our Soboba Foundation but also our Soboba family. We really appreciate Andrew and are very proud of him.”
Repeating after Vivanco, with his right hand raised, Vallejos pledged in part to carry out in a trustworthy and diligent manner all the duties and obligations inherent in his role.
Lemke was excited to have the new Directors welcomed. Those joining the board are Carlos Antonio Flores of Mega Bites Inc., attorney Jennifer Venable, Michael Perciful who is Broker/Owner of SoCal Realtors, MSJC’s Morris Meyers and Sonia Ramirez with Hemet Unified School District.
“Our directors are a huge asset to the success of the Chamber, and we are so thankful for their contributions of time, talent and of course treasure,” she said.
All current board members were invited to the stage and Soboba Tribal Chairman Vivanco officially installed them as they repeated their pledge to “contribute to defining Hemet San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce’s mission and to govern the fulfillment of that mission.”
Record provided some highlights about the importance of Chamber membership, stating that it tackles both issues and trends taking place in the community as well as offering resources and services to help local businesses succeed.
“We welcomed 92 new members this past year and social media insights showing post reach of 16,8000 and post engagement of 2,427,” he said. “Our Chamber offers three networks in addition to our monthly mixers to keep you connected.”
As he stepped down from his role as Chairman for the past two years and passed the gavel to Vallejos, Record said, “The past two years have been a very trying time as we navigated through the COVID pandemic, overcoming countless challenges while at the same time grieving the losses that many of us experienced. However, now we find ourselves here tonight; stronger, wiser and more committed than ever to making our community a place where everyone can thrive and achieve their personal, family, business and career goals and dreams.”
He said the community has begun to experience economic growth and new hope and optimism of a healthy and successful future.
“It is with great appreciation and admiration that I thank all of our Chamber Board members past, present and future, for giving of their time and resources to take on the responsibility of leading our community businesses and nonprofits toward a promising future,” Record said. “Finally, I would like to thank our fabulous Executive Director Cyndi Lemke, for her tireless efforts that have resulted in continuous growth of our chamber. Along with her staff including Russ Utz, Sonia Lamas and Kevin Saunders, and many volunteers, Cyndi has made our chamber a respected organization that is valued by the community. It has been my pleasure working with all of you and I am proud to hand over the leadership of the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce to Mr. Andrew Vallejos, whose skills and talents will lead us to the next level of success as a chamber.”
Vallejos’ speech outlined some of his plans to take the Chamber in a different direction that he feels will bring even more success to each and every member, making sure they all know they matter.
He said that since the time he was first introduced to the Chamber of Commerce, things have changed and he wants to be sure that it stays relevant to today’s business environment which includes home-based businesses as well as other entrepreneurs.
He hopes to connect businesses with nonprofits so they can partner on marketing and networking to promote both entities. “We should work in unity, not as competitors,” Vallejos said.
“One of the things that Dr. Record did was put our membership first and I want to continue that and build on it,” he said. “With the help of my fellow board of directors, each contributing their specific skill sets and talents, we will be able to work together to accomplish this goal. The Chamber will be here to help all of our members promote their causes, services and products to the valley so we can all reap the rewards.”
Vallejos thanked the Soboba Tribal Council, the Soboba Foundation and the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians for allowing him to work for them for the past 12 years, giving him so many opportunities to serve their community as well as the surrounding cities.
“Thank you for allowing me to be here tonight and thank you for allowing me to be your trusted Chairman for the next 12 months,” he said.
Each year, Chamber members are nominated in various categories to be recognized for the dedication and effort they put forth in the community during the year. Karena Zermeno of Altura Credit Union was named
Business Leader of the Year (female); other nominees were Cynthia Espinosa, Gale Hill, Deborah Jackson, Dalida Jaafar, Miriam Ortiz and Esmerelda Sanchez.
Business Leader of the Year (male) was awarded to Hemet Police Department Captain Glen Brock. Nominees were Dr. Roberto Guadamuz, Rob Johnson, Joel Ortiz, Craig Shultz and Kevin Speir.
Eva’s Floral Gallery was chosen as Small Business of the Year among nominees Gosch Ford, Honest Realty Group, J&H Automotive, Magazine of Values Hemet-San Jacinto, SJ Medical and VIP Autos. McCrometer received Large Business of the Year honors among fellow nominees Altura Credit Union, Hemet Valley Hospital and SoCal Gas Company.
VIP Autos came out on top against a long list of other deserving businesses for Customer Service of the Year that included Eva’s Floral Gallery Inc., Gerry Castro, Honest Realty Group, Jackson Suites Salon, Mi Bella, SJ Medical, Sylvan Learning and VIP Tots.
The Canyons Steakhouse at Soboba Casino was chosen as Restaurant of the Year with El Zarape, Los Mareados and Vero’s Tacos also nominated. Six New Member of the Year nominees were Budology, who won, Empire Mobility, Jackson Salon Suites, Los Mareados, Mega Bites and Vero’s Tacos.
The San Jacinto Business Beautification award went to the City of San Jacinto with strong showings from nominees Budology and San Jacinto Unified School District. The Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre was awarded the Hemet Business Beautification award for its recent remodel that took place during its pandemic closure. Other businesses nominated for their efforts were Golden Village Palms, Grocery Outlet, Hemet Unified School District, Jackson Salon Suites and Optum Hemet Primary Care Clinic and Community Center.
My City Youth Center was named Nonprofit of the Year. Other nominees were Boxing for Christ, Carol’s Kitchen, Cloverlane Foundation, Community Christian Church, EEK Fitness, San Jacinto Education Foundation, T.H.E. Center and Trauma Intervention Program (TIP).
Lemke thanked everyone for attending and told the members “your goals are our goals because your success is our success.”
For more information, hemetsanjacintochamber.com or 951-658-3211.
Photos courtesy Robert A. Whitehead