From top left, Ryan James, Rich Lerz and Samantha St. John; bottom from left, Brenda Kauffman, Penny Sweet, Nathalia Zuluaga Gomez and Doug Davis, were all honored by the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce. BOB GASSEN/Humanature Photography

Kirkland Chamber of Commerce presents 81st annual awards

Local business leaders gathered last week for the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce’s 81st Annual Awards Luncheon.

Lifestyle technology company Nytec, which has its Product Innovation Center in Kirkland, won the Charles (Chuck) O. Morgan Business Excellence Award. CEO Rich Lerz accepted the award on behalf of the company.

“The award came as quite a surprise,” Lerz said, adding he was honored that his company joined the ranks of previous winners such as Google and Ford/Hyundai of Kirkland. “We moved to Kirkland three years ago, and we made a commitment to getting more involved in the community.”

Lerz credited the Chamber as being a great facilitator between Nytec and the various arts, education, environmental and healthcare causes the company has supported, including the Cross Kirkland Corridor, Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Lake Washington School District and EvergreenHealth.

“There’s more and more big-name companies coming to Kirkland, but it still feels like a warm and cozy town,” Lerz said. “Every company that moves here gets involved.”

The Chamber also awarded individuals for their contributions to the Kirkland business community, including Councilmember Penny Sweet, who owns The Grape Choice with her husband, 45th District Rep. Larry Springer. She was given the William C. Woods Above and Beyond Award for her dedication to supporting local businesses, including showing up at most ribbon-cutting events.

“One of the values of a small business community is the solidarity,” Sweet said. “I take a great deal of pride in welcoming businesses.”

Lifelong Kirkland resident Samantha St. John received the Teddy Overleese “Teddy” Award, which is presented by the Kirkland Downtown Association to someone who is a dedicated volunteer at city events. St. John regularly volunteers at a variety of Kirkland events, including Google Lights, Winterfest, Summerfest and Oktoberfest.

“I love seeing the happiness (these events) bring to the community,” St. John, who works as a marketing and communications consultant, said. “These events truly bring people together … they are put on by members of the community for members of the community.”

The other award recipients include Ryan James of Ryan James Fine Arts, who received the A. Duane Lund Chamber Member of the Year Award; Brenda Kauffman of Columbia Athletic Club, who received the Anne J. Owen Community Service Award; Juanita High School student Nathalia Zuluaga Gomez, who received the Lee Johnson Student Community Service Award; and Doug Davis of Hallmark Realty, who received the Dick Beazell Friend of Kirkland Award.

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Sajeenaa Jebanathan (Middle) from Lake Washington High School receives the Lee Johnson Student Community Service Award. Katie Searle (Right) a Lake Washington School District CTE Specialist, and Tod Johnson (Left) of the Johnson family presented the award. <em>Kristina Bowman, Lake Washington School District</em>
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