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Auburn Area Connect Spotlight Award Finalists Announced!


The Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce has announced the finalists for the Auburn Area Connect Spotlight Awards.  The winners of the awards will be announced at the Chamber’s annual Spotlight Awards Gala, held September 25th at the Muckleshoot Casino.

This event will feature a silent auction & dessert dash, with proceeds to benefit Auburn Center for Social and Economic Policy, providing leadership and education to businesses and the Auburn Area community.  Click here for more information and to RSVP.  

Here are the Auburn Area Connect Spotlight Award Finalists:
The full nomination information is included below

CONNECT ACHIEVE AWARD FINALIST | Recognizing an Educator that has excelled in creating, implementing or supporting a high-caliber education and/or workforce development system aligned with closing the employment gap.
Dr. Suzanne Johnson – Green River College
Terri Herren – Mt View High School
Isaiah Johnson – Cascade Middle School (former Principal)
Lew Keliher – Director of Career and Technical Education in the Auburn School District
Sheilia McLaughlin – John L Scott – PTA


AUBURN AREA CONNECT AWARD FINALIST | Recognizing a business whose products and/or services have positively impacted the way in which Auburn Area businesses, employers and communities are connected to each other.
Multi-Service Center
Auburn Police Department
Outlet Collection Verity Credit Union Auburn

CONNECT ENVIRONMENTAL PRACTICES FINALIST | Recognizing a business that has put a priority on environmental improvement, education or outreach to its business sector and/or community.
Waste Management
Billy Jack Newman /Rail Hop’n

CONNECT IMPACT AWARD FINALIST | Recognizing a business/person that has had a significant cause-oriented impact in its sector and/or community and contributed to the advancement of the economy.
Orion Industries
Shelia Cowert / Longevity Pilates and Yoga
Kim Haynes /Alpine Ridge Insurance

CONNECT ENTREPRENEUR FINALIST | Given to an entrepreneur whose business is less than five-years-old and has made a significant impact in their industry and/or Auburn Area.
Auburn Examiner (hey, look, it’s us!)
Geaux Brewing


MINORITY OWNED AWARD FINALIST | This award recognizes a minority-owned business that has attained outstanding business achievement and exemplifies the significant contributions made by minority-owned businesses in the Auburn Area.
Reggie Matto/Clarion Inn Auburn Hotel – The Clarion Inn
Josh & Justine Headly/REVIVE Church – REVIVE

EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES | Recognizing an employer who has implemented innovative job retention, creation, benefits, and/or compensation plans that foster a thriving work environment in the Auburn Area.
Emerald Aire
Auburn School District

WOMAN LEADER OF THE YEAR FINALIST | This award recognizes a woman-owned business leader that has attained outstanding business achievement and exemplifies the significant contributions made by women-owned businesses in the Auburn Area.
Virginia Cross
Donel Brinkman
Brittiany Karlson


NONPROFIT OF THE YEAR FINALIST | Recognize the success of a nonprofit organization in the Auburn Area.
Orion Industries
Christ Community Free Clinic
Nexus Youth & Families
Battlefield Addiction

BILL KYLE AWARD NOMINEES | This award recognizes an individual that has contributed outstanding
legislative impact to the Auburn Area.
Yolanda Trout-Manuel
Leanne Guier
Bill Peloza

Full Nominations:
Dr. Suzanne Johnson – Green River College – Her no-nonsense approach to change in the education system is elevating GRC to a new level. Her accomplishments have been extraordinary in the short time she has taken over the reins of the college.
Terri Herren – Mt View High School – Terri is a “can do” person! She looks for positive outcomes and challenges the best in her students, employees, peers, and everyone she knows. Her heart is big and she has a unique way of sharing it. People learn from her how to give back, sharing that even small gestures can be huge.
Isaiah Johnson – Cascade Middle School (former Principal) – Isaiah was the developer of PRIDE stars and incentives, he developed an in-school suspension program to help keep kids in school- Sparta Center, he developed parent workshops to help parents support their children at home – he changed the culture. They became more relationship-driven to get results, rather than focus solely on the results – improved discipline.
Lew Keliher – Director of Career and Technical Education in the Auburn School District has excelled in creating, implementing and supporting a high-caliber education and workforce development system aligned with closing the employment gap for the Auburn School District and the greater Auburn community. One example (there are many) of why Mr. Keliher should be considered for this award is his annual organization of a multi-district career fair in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce that provides students with opportunities to network with local business and practice real-world workforce skills. Additionally, Mr. Keliher reaches out to underrepresented student groups to connect them to possible careers (i.e. Women in Trades). He works closely with local businesses to determine future workforce needs. Mr. Keliher serves on local, state and national career and technical advisory boards and has dedicated his life towards closing the employment gap.
Sheilia McLaughlin – John L Scott – Countless hours and dedication to the PTA, serving every position throughout her 12 years as a district parent, and currently running for position on the Auburn school board.

Multi-Service Center– MSC provides services to the entire South King County area including services for many Auburn residents, MSC helps approximately 45,000-50,000 people each year with housing, education and employment resources, energy assistance, food, and clothing. They also operate the Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program which provides advocacy for venerable adults. Their mission is to build a future without poverty by creating pathways to help, hope, and dignity for their neighbors. Their services touch the lives of those living and working in the Auburn community.
Auburn Police Department – Citizens’ Academy, Volunteer Program, Community Resource Team, Bicycle officers, community events participation, APOA, domestic violence volunteer advocacy, Safety Fair at the Outlet Collection Verity Credit Union Auburn – Verity Credit Union team stands behind the community and non- profits. With their nonprofit Friday where they feature a nonprofit in the community at their branch, they connect business, community, and non-profits helping to market and engage others. They actively participate in community events and give back to through donation and service.

Waste Management – As the largest recycler in the world, Waste Mgmt. has a robust recycle program for both residential and commercial facilities and will customize a program for any interested commercial business.
Billy Jack Newman /Rail Hop’n – He donates their spent grain to a local farm for use as animal feed. He has also donated spent grain to an organization that made dog treats sold at a fundraiser that supports a program that trains veterans’ service dogs
MultiCare – MultiCare Auburn Medical Center constructed a state-of-the-art centralized utility plant. The plant is powered by Variable Speed Frequency drives, motors and pumps for optimal efficiency to only use as much energy as the facility requires at any given time. The Medical Center has two generators for emergency power, eliminating the need to go on divert during a loss of power. The new generator system is powered by energy-efficient natural gas burners. Three new boilers provide the Medical Center’s hot water and work in tandem to provide backup in case of downtime. Through the building automation system, the hot water supply temperature will vary depending on outside air temperature to further reduce its carbon footprint. The three new state-of-the-art highly efficient chillers operate on a zero-friction magnetic bearing mechanical system. The new mechanical equipment is approximately 30-35% more energy efficient – lowering MultiCare’s carbon footprint.

Orion Industries – Founded in 1957 as a non-profit providing career pathways to individuals with barriers to employment, Orion has a simple belief – good jobs change lives. Helping to remove obstacles to employment is good for workers and the larger community. Orion’s transitional employment model has been recognized as a national leader by REDF and Stand Together, philanthropic organizations that fund, support and recognize outstanding social enterprises.
Shelia Cowert / Longevity Pilates and Yoga – Shelia is an amazing instructor, owner, and boss who cares so much for her clients, community and employees. Her studio is a warm and safe environment, where she treats her clients and employees with the utmost respect, love, and kindness. Shelia works hard to make sure everyone is happy and has everything they need all while running a topnotch studio.
Kim Haynes /Alpine Ridge Insurance – Kim is a great Auburn connector. She spans all business and community sectors in her quest to get out the Chamber message and promote her insurance business. She has a marvelous “get in your face” approach and knows more people than perhaps anyone. Her impact has been on the insurance industry and many of her clients are chamber members. A delightful business advocate and I can think of few others more qualified for this award.

Auburn Examiner – I nominate the Auburn Examiner. I have found this news outlet to be informative and accurate. I like that it focuses on the positive aspects of our community and high lights businesses that I otherwise would not know about. The articles are to the point and just take a few minutes to read. Since I always have my phone with me – when I have time to spare I can quickly read a few articles. This new information I have gathered can become the gist for small talk as I encounter others during my day. Thank you for considering this new business. (Thanks for this awesome nomination, we’re really honored!)
Geaux Brewing – Geaux Brewing opened a family-friendly brewery and restaurant bringing together the community with games, events and a great space to hang out and to chat with your neighbors. They have hosted many events for nonprofits and networking in the Auburn Area. They are pet-friendly and you will see a furry companion connecting with the community on most days. Jeremy, the owner, has a passion for the downtown area and wants to help with the revitalization by bringing activities and a great place to spend quality time with one another at his establishment.

Reggie Matto/Clarion Inn Auburn Hotel – The Clarion Inn earned the recognition as a 3 Star Hotel serving the community, families, schools and business partners around Auburn. Reggie turned a 1-star Hotel in Auburn into a 3 star, completing a massive renovation which took almost 9 months and $2.8 Million which in return created 50 local job opportunities and serves the community. She supports local and small companies by engaging their services to cater the demand and request from food suppliers, contractors, and local suppliers. Her ambition, hard work, determination and enthusiasm in building Clarion Inn Auburn into a success in a short period of time exemplifies her entrepreneurial spirit. She also makes time for charity by donating her time, support and money at Degh Tegh Community Kitchen – a Sikh humanitarian effort preparing weekly meals – having served almost 18,000 meals so far to everyone in need.
Josh & Justine Headly/REVIVE Church – REVIVE does this in a variety of ways, whether it’s through Adopt-A-Family where they provided full Thanksgiving dinners to families of low income, or The Hop that reached over 7,000 people this year in an all-city community egg hunt party with over 20,000 eggs dropped from a helicopter, or their extensive community involvement hosting the Faith Leaders Roundtable with Mayor Backus, Auburn Police Chaplaincy, Auburn Area Connect events committee, and so much more. In this last year, REVIVE has been able to help over 15,000 people succeed through its programs and outreach. The REVIVE leaders love the Auburn community and look forward to helping everyone in the community.

Emerald Aire – Emerald Aire is a 35-year-old company whose home has been Auburn the last 17 years, is a 43-million dollar company employing over 190 team members. In 2000, the corporate structure was replaced and reorganized around a team environment. The difference between a company and a team is that everyone one the team needs to know how to keep score, what they must contribute to make the team a success and how it all affects the scorecard. The team spirit is alive and Emerald Aire and makes it a great place to work!
Auburn School District – The ASD employs more than 2,000 people in a wide variety of positions. It is one of the largest employers in Auburn and was #26 on the Forbes Best-in-State Employer list for Washington in 2019. There are numerous reasons the ASD deserves this recognition. The district mission is to “Engage, Educate and Empower each student for success beyond graduation.” The district also engages, educates and empowers its employees. The district engages staff in a multitude of ways. One is an all-staff beginning of the year kick-off event to update everyone on the vision and plans for the upcoming school year. The district celebrates excellence in staff, too. The school board recognizes an outstanding staff member every month and the district selects teachers of the year and classified employees of the year for special recognition annually. The board also recognizes employee years of education service with special awards for each five-year increment working in education. Once hired in the ASD there are numerous and robust professional development opportunities for all staff members. Bus drivers, child nutrition staff, teachers, principals and every position in-between have the opportunity to further enhance their skills. As the demographics of Auburn have shifted, the ASD prioritized training all staff on equity practices to make sure all staff are providing the best possible environment for staff and students. The Human Resources Department has made intentional recruiting trips to increase the diversity of our staff to better reflect our student populations. Seeing a need to be even more intentional regarding staff, the ASD created a director of recruitment, retention and workforce development. The district also has excellent working relationships and values its eight different labor groups. The ASD offers excellent benefits and is part of the Washington State Retirement system.
MultiCare – In October 2012, Auburn Medical Center (then known as Auburn Regional Medical Center) became the fifth hospital to join the MultiCare Health System network and the first from South King County. The acquisition was part of MultiCare’s vision to strengthen and expand quality health care to families not only in Auburn, but also in its surrounding communities. Since then MultiCare has invested in people, structure and service improvements and brought a philanthropic commitment. A full renovation of the emergency department was completed in 2017 and a new adult psychiatric unit was added in 2016 to help address the community’s behavioral health needs. Waiting room areas have been refreshed and an in-house outpatient pharmacy was added. Donations from the community made it possible to build a new gift shop and a chapel. This year they completed construction of a new, state-of-the-art centralized utility plant.

Virginia Cross – Tribal Leader for Muckleshoot for a generation and an example to so many women of our community.
Donel Brinkman – Donel is operating an establishment normally associated with a male owner. The Spunky Monkey is a successful operation and fits the Auburn Area nightlife. She is committed to her customers and has gone above and beyond to make sure each customer is treated with respect.
Brittiany Karlson – Brittiany is passionate about serving the community while still running her own business, Vinifera. She has taken the lead of the ADA as a volunteer and had initiated many events to promote Auburn and individual businesses. She supports the 3NO mixers and is generous with her business and personal resources.

Orion Industries – Founded in 1957 as a non-profit providing career pathways to individuals with barriers to employment, Orion has a simple belief – good jobs change lives. Helping to remove obstacles to employment is good for workers and the larger community. Orion’s transitional employment model has been recognized as a national leader by REDF and Stand Together, philanthropic organizations that fund, support and recognize outstanding social enterprises.
Christ Community Free Clinic – Outstanding nonprofit providing medical, dental, hearing and vision care for those in need.
Nexus Youth and Families – Nexus has been helping at-risk kids get back on track for over 40 years. They continue to provide behavioral health services and homeless services for youth. Nexus works in the Auburn and Enumclaw school districts to assist students. They operate street outreach, shelters, around the clock care, case management for kids and young adults between the ages of 12-24. Nexus has partnered with the YMCA to build a state-of-the-art housing facility for homeless youth, currently under construction on the Nexus campus.
Battlefield Addiction – Battlefield is a family first organization fighting addiction in our community. They offer support for addicts and their families.

Yolanda Trout-Manuel – Outstanding legislative work on domestic violence and sexual abuse issues, and for her efforts to make Auburn Parks smoke and vape free.
Leanne Guier – Mayor of the City of Pacific, was the leader of a team that rescued the City from turning in its charter at a time of despair and deficits in their budget caused by the lack of ability to get insurance for their City. She worked with their council, mayors of neighboring cities and counties and brought the City of Pacific back from the brink. Her concept of team leadership since then has brought Pacific new businesses, allowed others to expand and brought new life to her city.
Bill Peloza – Bill is a 4 term City Council member. He showed his commitment to our city with his persistence in founding our Auburn Farmers’ Market after there had been 3 failed attempts. Throughout his tenure on the Council, he has been a friend of the Chamber. He has been a part of the reviews of rates and fees in Planning and Public Works always finding equity for city and businesses alike. A citizen volunteer he has been invoked in the leadership and almost all events of Rotary and VFW for decades

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