One of the surprises at last Thursday’s Lifetime Achievement Awards banquet had nothing to do with the honorees. Rather, it had to do with the person principally responsible for putting on the party: Debi Bray. She was honored, totally out of the blue, with the state senate’s Woman of the Year Award. The honor, itself, had been kept a secret. But it was no secret, and no surprise that she deserved it.
The award is made annually by whoever is the senator from the 12th District, which includes part of Madera County. In this case, it is Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and the attractive and tasteful framed plaque is given to memorialize a life of service and accomplishment.
In Debi’s case, her 30 years of service and accomplishment come as a result of her being the up-from-the-ranks president and CEO of the Madera District Chamber of Commerce.
It is a role that includes being a diplomat (successfully cajoling diverse business people to work together for their common good), a promoter of the city, and a politician. She is not a politician who goes out looking for votes. She is often in the political arena, though, as an advocate for the interests of Madera businesses in the local, and sometimes state, governmental venues.
A good example of this is the city’s sign ordinance, which was updated a few years ago. When the update was started, due to complaints about the poor quality of business signage in the city, she was there with an offer to get business people together. It wasn’t easy. If you think it is, try getting busy business managers together to talk about signage. Try getting them to go over statistics about sign sizes in relation to dimensions of building frontages. See, your eyelids are starting to droop already.
Debi patiently led the business people and made the case for their interests with city planners and council members. The result was a much better sign ordinance than the city had before.
Last year, as part of a Madera Tribune series on business development, Debi spoke eloquently about the importance of small business as an economic driver. She said that the quality of life in a community depends on its businesses. She never stops preaching that sermon. Amen, sister.
The Chamber is lucky to have Debi Bray as its president and CEO. May she enjoy many more years in that role.