Roblans and Businesses of the Year officially honored; Chamber’s new board members inducted

PASO ROBLES — After a year away, the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Gala at Rava Wines on May 7.

“We had a lovely time,” said Chamber Events Coordinator Shanay Brown. “Everybody seemed to be happy to be back together again and to be able to once again hold this lovely tradition that we sorely missed last year.”

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From left, 2021 Roblan of the Year Brian Thorndyke, Chamber CEO Gina Fitzpatrick, and 2020 Roblan Pat Bland are shown at the award ceremony. Photos by Heather Swanson

Annually, the chamber gala is held to welcome new board members and the Roblan of the Year. The gala was last held in February 2020, just in the nick of time. The Chamber then took a break last year to return this May with two Roblans of the Year.


Pat Bland was honored Saturday night as the 2020 Roblan of the Year and Brian Thorndyke as the 2021 Roblan of the Year. Cal Coast Beer Co. was honored with the Beautification of the Year.

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2022 Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce board members are officially installed at the Gala. Photos by Heather Swanson

“Celebrate Togetherness” was the theme of this year’s gala.

“It represented not just the togetherness of being able to do an event but Paso and Templeton’s chambers coming together,” explained Brown. “So there are a lot of reasons why that meant something. I think you could feel that people were excited to be together.”

This year marks the first gala with the Paso Robles and Templeton Chambers merged. The two chambers announced their merger on New Year’s Day, uniting more than 1,000 businesses.

“As we navigate this new merger, we are going to make sure we honor both communities,” added Brown.

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The 2020 Chamber board members say farewell, and get ready to introduce the new members. Photos by Heather Swanson

A tradition brought into this year’s Gala from the Templeton Chamber was Business of the Year. McPhee’s Grill was this year’s recipient. Max McPhee received the honor on behalf of his father, Ian, who was unable to attend the event.

Some notable guests of the evening included:

  • U.S. Congressman Jimmy Panetta, representing California’s 20th District
  • Senator John Laird of California Senate District 17
  • Kelley Abbas, representative from the office of Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (35th District)
  • Mary Strobridge, board president of Cuesta College Board of Trustees District 5
  • Paso Robles Mayor Pro Tem John Hamon
  • Paso Robles Councilman Steve Gregory
  • Nathan Williams, PRJUSD Board of Trustees member

Also present were Paso Robles Police Chief Damian Nord, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Curt Dubost, and Paso Robles City Manager Ty Lewis.

Farewells were then said to outgoing board members Malani Anderson, John Arnold, Fred Bruen, William Enholm, Warren Frace, Nicolas Mattson, Reilly Newman, Julie Richardson, Mark Samsow, and Darryl Stolz. 

Following their goodbyes, the 2022 board of directors was installed, with Steven Herring elected as the 2022 Chairman of the Board and Isiah Gomer as 2021 Chairman of the Board. Their fellow board members include:

  • Rex Caudle
  • Rich Clayton
  • Jim Cogan
  • Lisa Colwell
  • Robert Covarrubias
  • Elizabeth Covert
  • Dr. Maria Escobedo
  • Shonna Howenstine
  • Kathy Kelly
  • Sarah Martin
  • Kathy Nutt
  • Victor Popp
  • Stephanie Roberts
  • Debbie Thomas
  • Mike Talen
  • Thomas White
  • Ashley Wilken

A live auction was held led by auctioneer Todd Ventura and followed by the chamber’s game of “Heads or Tails.”

While the chamber turned 100 years old in 2020, there are some blurred lines, and missing records indicating when they started the Gala or even electing Roblans of the Year.

Regardless, their mission has remained the same — promote economic vitality, empower leaders, champion businesses, foster civic engagement, and honor our history.

Brown’s final note of the night was, “And a great time was held by all.”