On Friday, December 7, the Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS® (SBAOR) held their 111th annual Installation Luncheon at the Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito. The fact that this occasion was the 111th annual is pretty notable in itself. Needless to say, the real estate industry and our local community have undergone myriad changes in that time. In addition, 2018 was arguably one of the most challenging of those years, and the luncheon therefore reflected those challenges both in substance and atmosphere.
The luncheon is held each year to thank the outgoing officers and board of directors, and to welcome the incoming slate. It is also an occasion to present awards to deserving members of the association and noteworthy community members. As a past recipient of one of those awards, I can testify that the awards committee and the SBAOR staff take the presentations seriously every year, and they are particularly effective at keeping the surprises under wraps.
Realtor and past SBAOR president Laurel Abbott set the tone as the inspirational speaker of the event. After leading with humor, Laurel’s remarks centered on the people and qualities that most inspire her about our community. Her emotional speech included observations such as, “Santa Barbara is not just about the weather; it’s about how we weather the storm. It’s not just the beauty; it’s that we bring out the beauty in one another.” Her love for Santa Barbara was palpable and set a tone that was carried throughout the gathering.
This year’s awards had several departures from tradition. One such change came in awarding multiple Community Service Awards to non-Realtor recipients. Abe Powell of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, Tara Haaland-Ford of the Santa Barbara Support Network, and tireless reporter John Palminteri of KEYT/KCOY were all honorees. In accepting his award, Powell commended the real estate community for their essential role in the aftereffects of the debris flow earlier this year, reminding the audience that “realtors are the first wave of second responders, helping find shelter for people in their time of need.” He told stories of how selflessly the real estate community had pitched in to help, in what he called a “Santa Barbara style of recovery.”
Another set of Community Service Awards was presented to Realtors Josiah Hamilton and Charlene Nagel. In accepting his award, Hamilton, who is also a cofounder of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, shared tales of his experiences of the past year and told the audience that even when solutions seem unclear, “lead with your heart, and everything else will work itself out.”
Judging by the recipient’s reaction, one of the awards that was a complete surprise was the Realtor of the Year Award, which was presented to 2017 SBAOR President David Kim. Kim was recognized, in part, for his “extraordinary willingness and personal example of consistent support to the real estate industry.” In accepting his award, Kim commented that “I thank my lucky stars every day” that he is able to serve this community.
Outgoing 2018 President Andy Alexander was generous with messages of gratitude to the SBAOR staff, committees, and members of the association who helped him in his role as president. As he listed highlights from the year, the $650,000 in assistance that the Realtor Relief Fund was able to provide to local community members who were hardest hit stood out as a top accomplishment.
Incoming 2019 President Thomas Schultheis accepted the gavel from Alexander and charmed the crowd with a short but heartfelt speech directing the audience to invest in their community. In reflecting on the challenges of the past year, Schultheis likened our roles in society to those of campers who leave an area in better condition than they found it. He vowed to do the same for the association and encouraged all members to pitch in and do their part.
The Howard Gates Award and Jack Kelly Award, for most difficult transactions during the year, were both presented to Steve Golis. SBAOR Honorary Members for Life were presented to Joanne Stoltz and Gay Milligin, both of whom were commended for their professionalism, kindness, and work ethic. The Affiliate Member of the Year was presented to Guy Rivera, who has served on numerous committees and helped establish an affiliates’ scholarship fund through the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.
By far the most moving dedication of the event was when Jasmine Tennis introduced the inaugural Realtor Award of Excellence. The award was dedicated to the late Rebecca Riskin, who lost her life tragically in the January 2018 Montecito debris flow. Riskin was awarded the honor “in recognition of her most distinguished career, history of excellence and collaboration, willingness to share knowledge with others, and her well-earned reputation for demonstrating the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.” In an exchange that was tearful for everyone involved, Tennis presented the award to Riskin’s son Robert.
This was a year of adversity, loss, tragedy, and resulting persistence, cohesion, and renewal in our community. This year’s SBAOR Installation Luncheon recognized and honored each of these aspects. As 2019 President Thomas Schultheis encouraged the audience to “go with gratitude” so that “we can continue to add value to the community as a whole,” he established an atmosphere of hope and set the stage for a bright year ahead. As I stepped out into the bright December sunshine, I felt inspired indeed.
Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS®
2019 Board of Directors:
President – Thomas Schultheis
President Elect – Staci Caplan
Vice President – Janet Caminite
Secretary/Treasurer – Brian Johnson
Directors: Marcos Lazaro
Bob Walsmith Jr.
Richard van Seenus
Immediate Past President – Andy Alexander
Affiliate Director – Rick Wilson