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|Santa Monica Chamber Installs New Board|
By Jorge Casuso
June 15, 2012 -- The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce installed a new board Thursday night and named as its chair Ellis O'Connor, co-president of MSD Hospitality, the company that owns the Miramar Hotel.
The changing of the guard comes as Santa Monica businesses are weathering a tough national economy, and the Miramar, which once again hosted the annual chamber banquet, is initiating negotiations with the City to redevelop its 84-year-old facility.
"At a time when unemployment in the country is at 8 percent and 11 percent in the state, you all here in Santa Monica are providing more and more jobs every day," said Mayor Richard Bloom.
"We're on the leading edge here of the economic recovery." Said Bloom, who is likely candidate in the November showdown to represent the 50th Assembly District.
After being introduced, Ellis, who currently serves as chair of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, narrated a slide show of the long and colorful history of the Miramar, which has counted movie stars and presidents among its guests.
In fact, Thursday's banquet served as a showcase for the hotel, including the presentation of a video featuring the hotel's rich history, the amenities that it offers and the benefits that would be provided by its redevelopment.
O'Connor, the Miramar's former general manager, will replace outgoing chair Ron Davis, owner of Santa Monica Ford Lincoln Subaru.
The chamber also presented its annual awards at Thursday's banquet, giving the Roy E. Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award to Susan Gabriel Potter, who took over her father Bob Gabriel's insurance company after his death.
"This is the first award I've ever received," said Gabriel Potter. "Both of my parents were recipients, and standing here tonight I thank them."
She added that her father, a former City Council member who led numerous non profits, and her mother, Louise Gabriel, who has run the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum for four decades, taught her "what service above self really means."
Then, turning to her mother, Gabriel Potter said, "Mom, it's finally my turn."
The Bob Gabriel Community Service Business Award was given to WISE & Healthy aging, which serves 30,000 seniors every year, and Downtown Santa Monica Inc., which runs the Downtown.
A surprise award was presented to Jean McNeil Wyner, a longtime liaison for Santa Monica-UCLA Health Center who is known as "Ms. Santa Monica."
"Jean has single-handedly touched the lives of all of us," said Chamber President and CEO Laurel Rosen. "They say one person can make a difference. That person is Jean McNeil Wyner."
Said McNeil Wyner, "This is a complete surprise, and I know everything that goes on in this town."
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