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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Austin HornbostelThe California Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual meeting Saturday at Centennial Hall on the Moniteau County Fairgrounds, reflecting on the past year and taking time to recognize the continuous support of outgoing California mayor and Chamber board member Norris Gerhart.

The California Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting Saturday at Centennial Hall on the Moniteau County Fairgrounds.

The meeting was an abbreviated affair due to the cancellation of the traditional dinner and scholarship auction typically held in conjunction with the board's usual business meeting. Even still, the group took time to reflect on the challenges and accomplishments of the past year and honor board member Norris Gerhart for his continuous dedication to the Chamber during his time as mayor of California.

Outgoing Chamber president Brandy Brockes, who presided over the meeting, presented a review of 2020 that touched on highlights such as a trio of ribbon cuttings for Moniteau County Christian Ministries Center's new addition, the California Eagles Aerie #4027's new building and Hollon Family Chiropractic. Other accomplishments included a successful golf tournament, which ultimately raised more than $6,000; an Ozark Ham & Turkey "Celebration," held in the place of the canceled Ham & Turkey Festival, which saw local businesses help to facilitate a scaled-down day of activities; and a successful edition of Christmas California Style, featuring a well-reviewed second year of Christmas in Proctor Park.

Overall, Brockes said, it was a year the Chamber could be proud of.

"I do think that a lot of businesses and community members came together this year and found a lot of ways to be creative," Brockes said. "California found a lot of ways to be creative this year. I think it was definitely shown throughout our community, and I know a lot of people really appreciated the Chamber still trying to reach out and doing things we can to support our community. Hopefully, 2021 is a step in a better direction."

The Chamber's new slate of officers — new president Kayle Kiesling, new vice-president Sharon Campbell, returning treasurer Pamela Pearon and returning secretary Rita Hammerly — was officially approved at the annual meeting, paving the way for the new group to take over starting with next week's regular meeting.

The group closed out its time at Saturday's meeting taking the time to thank Gerhart for his strong support during his time as mayor. Gerhart said throughout his time in office, and especially during a year like 2020, it was something he always thought was important to do.

"People don't understand how much time it takes to make things happen," Gerhart said. "California, Missouri, this last year at Christmas time — a time that we all needed — just think of what we did for this town."

Chamber Executive Secretary Sandra Ratcliff echoed the appreciation for Gerhart, leading the group in a round of applause, and voiced appreciation for the Chamber's support during a less than normal year.

"The whole year's been unusual," Ratcliff said. "It's been unusual from the Chamber office's standpoint. It's been unusual trying to keep things held together but we made it good, successful, and I think we'll probably make the next year successful. I hope so."


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