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'Best of the best': Chamber of Commerce holds annual awards gala

Woodbury police officers (front, from left) Nick Wachal, Jeff Benysek and Adam Sack receive the 2018 Public Safety Worker of the Year Award Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, at the annual Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce awards gala. Also awarded though not present was Steve Hane. The officers were recognized for their role in busting a retail crime ring. Michael Brun / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Former Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens addresses the crowd after being named Citizen of the Year. She said her role model is her father, who is celebrating his 92nd birthday in Arizona. “He’s the one I look to because he exemplifies selfless love and sacrifice.” Michael Brun / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Physical education teacher Randy Spring with Liberty Ridge Elementary School was awarded Educator of the Year. He thanked the district for supporting physical education as well as his wife, fellow teacher Ashley Spring. Michael Brun / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Big Frog Custom T-Shirts of Woodbury owner Eric Morley receives the award for Business of the Year. Michael Brun / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

The Woodbury business community came together Friday, Jan. 18, to recognize the groups and people who stood out in 2018.

Businesses, organizations and individuals received awards in five categories at Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce's annual gala held at the renovated DoubleTree by Hilton off I-94 and McKnight Road.

Brian Griffin with Bay Equity Home Loans in Oakdale also was named the chamber's 2018 Ambassador of the Year.

Here's the list of winners and nominees:

Business of the Year

Winner: Big Frog Custom T-Shirts of Woodbury

Nominees: Saint Therese of Woodbury, Tamarack Group of Thrivent Financial

Citizen of the Year

Winner: Mary Giuliani Stephens

Nominees: Roger Green, Elizabeth Owens

Educator of the Year

Winner: Randy Spring, Liberty Ridge Elementary School

Nominees: Christina Dease, Woodbury High School; Dawn Kroohn, New Life Academy; Shay Motalebi, New Life Academy

Public Safety Worker of the Year

Winners: Woodbury police officers Jeff Benysek, Steve Hane, Adam Sack and Nick Wachal

Nonprofit of the Year

Winner: Oak Meadows Senior Living

Nominees: Saint Therese of Woodbury, Woodbury Lions Club, Woodbury Veterans Memorial, Youth Service Bureau

"We are fortunate to live in a community that gives back in a way that is unheard of in other areas. It's our culture," Chamber President Laurie Staige said in a statement. "These people who were nominated are the best of the best. There is a great pool of candidates, but these people really shine."

The gala featured silent and live auctions as well as a wine pull. Gina Kazmerski, the board chair for 2018, also passed the gavel to 2019 chair Tim Lawrence.

For more information about Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce, visit

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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