JACKSON — The 107th annual meeting of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, held at The Wentworth on Tuesday night, celebrated employers, entrepreneurs, community spirit and the dedication of lifetime volunteers.
Nearly 300 people attended the dinner meeting, which began with a review of the past year and the election of Tom Caruso of Northway Bank to the board. Presiding was chamber President Christopher Bellis of the Cranmore Inn and Janice Crawford, executive director, with Wentworth owner Ellie Koeppel hosting the event.
This year’s Steve Eastman Award — created to honor the late Mountain Ear founder/publisher and community leader —was presented by Eastman's brother Tom and Steve's wife Sarah W. Eastman to Bob and Sharon Seaman.
The Seamans were recognized for their leading role in the Vaughan Community Service’s Food Pantry where are now key parts of the $1.4 million capital campaign to build a newantry and clothing depot on First Church of Christ, Congregational property.
"It takes a village to raise a child," said Sharon in her remarks about community involvement, "but it takes a community to get things done. And we're a community that gets things done."
Added Bob, "You all should be very proud to be participants of this outstanding community."
The White Mountains Treasure Awards were sponsored by Memorial Hospital and presented by community relations director Melody Nester. The award honors individuals for outstanding community service and commitment to the valley.
Two were presented this year. The first recipient was Steven P. Cote, president of Chalmers Insurance Group.
Cote was nominated by his peers for more than 25 years of valuable service to both Chalmers and the larger community, ranging from basketball coach to Kiwanis Club of Mount Washington Valley to the MWV Economic Council.
Cote thanked his parents for setting the example for his community involvement, his wife and children for their support and for Chalmers for allowing him the time to coach and serve.
He also spoke to local young people, noting, "It is OK to stay in the valley if you love the valley. I never left and never had a desire to leave. ... If you want to work hard and dig in, you cannot only find something that provides a great career but also allows you to live in the best place on the planet."
The second Treasure was Joe Berry of Attitash Mountain Service Co.
Starting with building the first hotel condominium in the state in the late '70s to employing more than 100 people today at Attitash Mountain Village and the Eastern Slope Inn (which he and a partner acquired in 1980), Berry has given generously to valley organizations, including $100,000 to the soon-to-be-built Rec Path.
"We are a very defined community," said Berry in accepting the award. "As you know, everyone of us is involved in each other's lives ... (Our work) has provided us not only with a base at Attitash Mountain Village but an opportunity from which to give back to the valley."
The Employer of the Year Award — given to a business that creates a safe and inviting workplace, solid pay/benefits and the opportunity for training and advancement — went to John Eastman and the Conway Parks and Recreation Department.
Eastman thanked the community and in particular the selectmen and town officials, saying, "I have been blessed to work for the town of Conway for almost 30 years, and I have been given a lot of opportunities."
In light of that, he said, "My philosophy has always been to provide opportunities to others. For me, it started when I was 18 as a counselor at Conway Rec, and although I did move away for a little bit, I did return, and although we all know that it can at times be a hard place to make a living, it is one of the best places to make a living ... I have a great staff, and I believe you're only as good as the people around you."
Entrepreneur of the Year was awarded to Ben Williams, owner of Barley & Salt Tap House and Kitchen, and Black Cap Grille, both in North Conway.
Nominated by Dot Seybold, general manager of Settlers Green, Wiliams was recognized for the different restaurant concepts he’s developed (Horsefeathers, with then co-partner Brian Glynn in 1976; Black Cap, which opened at Settlers Crossing in 2009; and Barley & Salt, which opened at Settlers Streetside more recently) that have reshaped dining in the region.
“Ben Williams has been making dining magic for over 40 years. Ben is creative, driven and one of the most likable guys in the valley,” said Seybold said in her nomination.
In receiving the award, Williams thanked his staff and partner Michael Mastronardi, as well as Seybold and OVP management for their encouragement and support in bringing him "to the south end of town" during the 2008 recession after having made his mark as "a village guy."
"I can't thank them enough," said Williams.
The chamber's 107th annual meeting and dinner was sponsored by Eastern Propane & Oil, Eversource, Chalmers Insurance Group, Northeast Credit Union and TD Bank. Memorial Hospital sponsored the White Mountain Treasures Awards.
In the chamber's annual report, public relations director Marti Mayne said that the chamber received 2.973 trillion impressions in media coverage from August 2018-August 2019 with an imputed value of $188 million.
For more about the chamber, go to mtwashingtonvalley.org or call (603) 356-5701.