The Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce held its annual installation breakfast this week as it installed a new president and board of directors for 2018.
In addition, the large crowd of city officials and business people listened intently as Seal Beach native Sondra Haley gave them inside stories about the White House years of George H.W. Bush.
Outgoing President Scott Levitt gave brief remarks about his year as president, saying what amazed him the most was the consistency with which visitors remarked about the simple beauty of Seal Beach.
“People are amazed they could park for free,” said Levitt, remarking that first time visitors to Seal Beach were surprised at its authentic, hometown feel.
Levitt turned the gavel over to Karen Kuns, a Seal Beach resident who has served on the board since 2014 who will handle the helm of the Chamber for the upcoming year.
“I’m going to promote business in Seal Beach,” she said, while expanding the use of volunteers to strengthen the local economy and spread the word about the city. Kuns said she spent the past four years “promoting other businesses” in Seal Beach and “never did I imagine that “volunteering” would result in the honor and privilege of being installed as the President of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Haley, who is the daughter of famed local restaurateur Jack Haley (Captain Jack’s in Sunset Beach) and her grandmother Virginia Haley is Seal Beach’s oldest living resident at 101.
After moving to Washington, D.C., she applied and was accepted to become a White House intern. “I want to remind you that was before they were allowed into the Oval Office,” she said to a loud roar from the group.
Once there, Haley met and worked with Barbara Bush, who was then the wife of then Vice-President Bush. She quickly became a staff assistant and later, after Bush became President, served as the First Lady’s Deputy Press Secretary.
Working with Mrs. Bush, said Haley, was a lifelong lesson in humility. She showed photos of herself in the White House, on Air Force One and other locations with Mrs. Bush which were indicative of her close personal and excellent working relationship with the First Lady (After leaving office, Mrs. Bush came to Sunset Beach to dine with Haley’s family at Captain Jack’s).
Her most memorable moment, said Haley, was just after President Bush had been defeated by Bill Clinton and had finished making his concession speech.
Haley was devastated, crying backstage, when the President came to her and asked her not to worry “because this is not the worst thing that will happen in your life or mine.” “Here he was, just as losing the Office of President of the United States, and he was comforting me,” she said.
The one thing she does regret was not keeping a journal during her White House years, Haley told the crowd. “My dad kept telling me to do it” but she didn’t.
Also, going back, Haley said it would have been more enjoyable to enjoy her time there rather than rushing around to do more work. “I had access to the entire White House, Rose Garden and could have attended anything,” she said.
Nevertheless, she said her greatest memories were of Seal Beach and the White House. She has also worked in public affairs at Disney, the GAP and was Director of Communications for the NBA. Haley was interviewed by Chamber Board member Rosie Ritchie.
Esther Kenyon was presented with the Emeritus Volunteer Award for all of her selfless work as a volunteer, organizing the Chamber Ambassador program and other activities.
Kenyon, who represents the Seal Beach Performing Arts Association, said throughout her career, she has been astounded at the great work done by various volunteers and volunteer organizations. She accepted with “heartfelt” thanks.
Nate Ferguson, of Ferguson Realty, accepted the Seal Beach Business of the Year award, paying homage to many of the principles of customer service he learned early by working at Haley’s first restaurant. “They greeted everyone when they walked through the door,” said Ferguson, saying he operates his business with the same spirit.
Tim Way of The Way Company was honored as the Volunteer of the Year, saying whatever you invest in the Chamber, you get back by a factor of 10.
Kori DeLeon of RTI Insurance was called a “staunch defender of small business” was given the Business Person of the Year award by the Chamber. She will also serve as Vice President for the coming year.
The 2018-19 Chamber board members are President Karen Kuns, Vice President Kori DeLeon, Secretary Rosie Ritchie, Treasurer Dr. Julie Brown, Past-President Scott Levitt, Juni Banico, Stan Blackwell, Jeffrey Blancq, Frank Carvajal, Carrie Logue, Bob Machen, Mary Moran, Shannon Switzer, and Tim Way.
They were present to take the oath and will serve for the next year.