ALACHUA ‒ It was an upbeat evening as the Alachua Chamber of Commerce hosted their 2024 Annual Gala on Wednesday, Jan. 24. Held at Alachua’s Legacy Park, large 3-D lighted marquee letters spelling Alachua glittered on stage as more than 550 people attended the Chamber’s signature event. The occasion recognizes the work and accomplishments of people, businesses, volunteers and sponsors and gives the Chamber an opportunity to share the year’s accomplishments and goals for the new year.
The evening kicked off with a 5:30 p.m. cocktail hour complete with beer provided by Burkhardt Distributors and wine provided by Bleaker & Flask. A surf and turf dinner service by Beyond Expectations started at 6:45 p.m. with dessert sponsored by Colliers International Real Estate.
Incoming Chamber President Adam Boukari handled the master of ceremonies duties and introduced the event’s title sponsor, Scherer Construction. Boukari said the company has been a valuable partner to the Alachua region for decades, adding, “Their footprint in Alachua is seen from every corner of the community.
Also recognized were the Chamber’s Sustaining Members who provide support to the Chamber on an ongoing basis. Those members are City of Alachua, San Felasco Tech City, Alachua Commerce Center, Scherer Construction, Campus USA, Fletcher Companies, University of Florida, Renasant Bank and Tower Hill Insurance Group.
“These companies have made multi-year commitments to our Chamber to strengthen our ability to support business development and economic prosperity,” said Boukari
Among elected officials attending were Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper, Vice Mayor Dayna Miller and Commissioners Shirley Green Brown, Ed Potts and Jennifer Ringersen. Also representing the City of Alachua were City Manager Mike DaRoza and Police Chief Jesse Sandusky. Also in attendance were Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman, Alachua County Fire Chief Harold Theus and Alachua County Sheriff Emery Gainey.
The Gala’s Supporting Sponsor was RTI Surgical. “This Alachua homegrown company is making impacts on people the world over,” said Boukari about the global firm. “They believe deeply in corporate citizenship and serving the community where they work.” In addition to gala sponsors, multiple local businesses sponsored tables to the event.
The gala traditionally is a time for the Chamber to recognize people and organizations that have made significant impacts in the community. Kicking off the awards portion of the event was the Alachua Police Department Officer of the Year award. Recipient Thomas Stanfield is the department’s Public Information Officer.
The Chamber also recognized local businesses. Selected as its Small Business of the Year was Tina Ross of Alachua Flowers and Tuxedo Rental. Additionally, Waste Pro was selected Large Business of the Year and Chamber Volunteer of the Year was Shasta Schoellhorn
After serving three years as Chamber President, Mitch Glaeser delivered his final President’s Message. “There is no bigger cheerleader in our community than our outgoing president Mitch Glaeser,” said Boukari. – “He has charted our path toward prosperity, business growth and a shared vision.”
Glaeser recounted accomplishments that have been made over the past few years, crediting those longtime companies that continue to invest in the community and referencing new companies locating in Alachua and new jobs being created.
“The Gala caps off and highlights the momentum and exciting things that are happening throughout Alachua,” said Glaeser. “The quality of projects and jobs that those companies are creating is a huge benefit to all of our citizens who live here and enhances the quality of life we have come to know.”
Glaeser was recognized for his dedication and service to the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and was gifted with a Swiss-made watch, which was showcased at the 1889 World Fair held in Paris, France. Referencing Glaeser’s museum of entrepreneurship at his San Felasco Tech City office, Boukari said, “We hope that this watch will join your many other treasures of history and innovation on display in your museum and office and will serve as a wonderful reminder of the time you so selflessly gave to our Chamber and community.”
The evening also saw the 2024 Board of Directors installed. Members include Mitch Glaeser, Ed Potts, David Pope, Elliot Welker, Zak Seymoure, Neil Burk, Jerry Smith, Jovante Hayes, Joe Hancock, Flo Hester, Shasta Schoellhorn, Michele Lee, Shelley Vickers, Kyla Frye, Steve Szabo and President Adam Boukari.
Always a highlight of the evening, the live auction led by Ben Boukari, Jr. Boukari didn’t disappoint as he auctioned off a sports theme package consisting of a football signed by over a dozen Heisman Trophy winners including the University of Florida’s Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow and dinner for 10 at Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille.
With the combination of award presentations, the live auction, insights offered by local business leaders, and a comedy act by stand-up comedian and actor Brad William, the gala delivered a diverse agenda for those in attendance and a night to remember.
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