Leesburg Chamber Of Commerce Holds 86th Annual Installation Gala, Awards Presentation


LEESBURG – The Leesburg Chamber of Commerce 86th Annual Installation Gala was an inspiring event that attracted more than 300 business leaders, representatives from the city’s public and private sectors, and community residents who witnessed the installation of new officers for its Board of Directors and learned who received the organization’s coveted awards for 2023.

Ten individuals were presented awards, including the coveted George O. Pringle prestigious award given to a “Chamber member who has significantly contributed his or her efforts by volunteering many hours to the Chamber and the community without reservation.” John Christian, a former Leesburg City Commissioner and mayor, and presently Senior Pastor of Christian Worship Center and Chairman of Leesburg Community Development Corporation was presented the coveted George O. Pringle Award.

“It was an honor to receive the George O. Pringle Award for my service to my city and to be recognized by our city’s business leaders and Leesburg Chamber of Commerce. I have represented the Leesburg Community as a Commissioner for 16 years, and I have always focused on improving the quality of life for Leesburg’s residents.  For me, being bestowed with this prestigious award is validation that I made a positive difference in the lives of the people I was elected to represent and appointed to serve.”

“It was a little bit noisy and I didn’t hear my name called”, said Ken Bragg, who scooped the Gregg Padgett Citizen of the Year Award.  Receiving the award, which was presented by Chuck Padgett, Gregg Padgett’s brother, was a personal thing for Mr. Bragg. He was totally surprised.  The person next to him told him that his name was called. “I knew the Padgett family. Gregg was my daughter’s date for their Leesburg High School prom. I mentored Gregg, who became a CPA. Mr. Bragg, an educator, started the Lake Technical College in Eustis on Kurt Street in 1967 and the Leesburg High School Construction Academy.”

“Ken Bragg a well-known figure in the Leesburg community and throughout Lake County. Where other people are ready to retire and relax, Ken has never stopped his efforts to serve and uplift the community. Congratulations Ken,” said Joa Harpster.

Yolanda Green, well-known and liked, a very receptive lady, and a minister, who gives of herself unconditionally, received the well-deserved Ambassador Award.

“No matter what a person does in life, whether he or she is a novice or a professional, it’s been my nature to inspire others to a commitment to excellence, so I do what I can whenever I can to help others,” said Yolanda Green.

The well-attended event was entertaining with everyone enjoying the fellowship.  It was great to see many people come out to celebrate the honorees and new board members, said Joa Harpster, Director of Membership and Events.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sandi Moore said the annual Installation Gala is always a great event that provides the opportunity to celebrate what we’ve accomplished in the last year. We inducted four new board members and recognized ten individuals who helped “to promote progress and profit by providing unparalleled support and networking opportunities to local businesses.”

Other awardees included Ken Bragg, who received the Greg Padgett Citizen of the Year Award, which Director Sandi Moore said was originally awarded by the Leesburg Partnership, which dissolved earlier this year. The Humanitarian Award went to Linda Watts. For Leadership and Sports/Athletics, winners were Dr. Heather Bigard and Spencer Hey and Sean Campbell respectively. Melissa McCracken Kelley picked up the Business Woman of the Year Award.

Honorees for Small Business, Medium Business, and Large Business of the Year were Bases Loaded Consulting Group, Luna Azul Authentic Mexican Restaurant, and Lake Port Square respectively.

Leesburg Chamber of Commerce opened its doors in 1924 and the slogan “Promoting Progress and profit is more than a catchy slogan to members of the Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce; it’s a battle cry. The battle cry to “Buy local” is conducted through monthly business after hours, and Sunrise breakfasts, the annual installation and awards gala and other events.”

According to the organization’s website, “The Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce serves as the voice for member businesses, representing, advocating, and working to enhance the business environment. Through the chamber, the Leesburg business community can continue to develop strong relationships and feel empowered, knowing their voices count.”

“The annual Installation Gala was very organized and the people recognized were good business people. I do business with them,” Nate Sanders, a small business owner, said.

There are ample opportunities for our people right here in Leesburg, and Executive Director Moore diligently tries to make sure Leesburg residents are aware of the programs and resources offered by the Chamber such as the Spark program for high school students. Principals and teachers are asked to identify students with leadership potential for the Spark program that’s held at the Warren Willis Youth Camp in Fruitland Park.  “We also support teachers with an annual breakfast and more said Executive Director Moore. “When the pieces come together it’s a great narrative for our community.”