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Weslaco Man & Woman of the Year; establishes Lifetime Achievement Award

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The 2016 Weslaco Chamber award honorees. Front row: Volunteer of the Year Sulema Cuellar; 2015-2016 board chair Melissa Neuhaus, Woman of the Year Anabell Cardona, Man of the Year Richard Lehman, Gene Pena and family accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Pablo G. Pena. Back row: 2016-2017 Board Chair Gene Vaughan, Board Member of the Year Kevin Bloomquist, Retiring Board Director Jeff Walker and associates from Business of the Year Lowe's Home Improvement.
The 2016 Weslaco Chamber award honorees. Front row: Volunteer of the Year Sulema Cuellar; 2015-2016 board chair Melissa Neuhaus, Woman of the Year Anabell Cardona, Man of the Year Richard Lehman, Gene Pena and family accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Pablo G. Pena. Back row: 2016-2017 Board Chair Gene Vaughan, Board Member of the Year Kevin Bloomquist, Retiring Board Director Jeff Walker and associates from Business of the Year Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Texas Border Business

The Weslaco Chamber of Commerce held its annual membership luncheon on Wednesday, November 2 at the Knapp Medical Conference Center.  The Chamber awarded Man, Woman, and Business of the Year, and established its very first Lifetime Achievement Award.

The 2016 Man of the Year award went to life-long resident of Weslaco Richard Lehman.  Lehman was a Biology teacher, and upon retirement, focused his efforts in the development of Weslaco.  Lehman was one of the founders of Valley Nature Center and provided leadership for Frontera Audubon.

He was instrumental in Weslaco being selected as a World Birding Center site and wrote the grant to turn a corn field into the main water feature at Estero Llano Grande State Park. In addition, Lehman served on the Weslaco Economic Development Board for several years.

Anabell Cardona, President/CEO of Valley Grande Institute for Academic Studies, was selected as the 2016 Woman of the Year. Also a life-long resident of Weslaco, Cardona has served as board chair for the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce and most recently, the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

She also directed the organization in the absence of an Executive Director.  She is a member of the Weslaco Crime Stoppers and the Make a Wish Foundation. Cardona has previously served on the Weslaco Parks and Recreation Board, Operation Lone Star, and the Knapp Medical Center Board of Directors.

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The inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded posthumously to Pablo G. Peña.   Peña became the first Hispanic Mayor of Weslaco in 1971.

During his service, he acquired grants to develop the City Park, which was eventually named after him and is now Mayor Pablo G. Peña City Park. Peña founded Weslaco’s Central Plumbing and Electric Supply in 1964.  While in high school, Peña played in the high school band under the direction of another former Weslaco Mayor, Gene Braught.

Peña so admired Mayor Braught, he named his firstborn son after him.  Pena’s sons and additional family members were present to accept the award on his behalf.

Business of the Year went to Lowe’s Home Improvement of Weslaco. Since coming to Weslaco, Lowe’s has been a major part of Texas Onion Fest, specifically the Culinary Center where cooking demonstrations are held.  Every year, Lowe’s associates design and build an outdoor kitchen, complete with a pergola, plants and patio furniture.

Additional honorees included Volunteer of the Year Sulema Cuellar, Sulema’s Hair Design; Chamber Board Member of the Year Kevin Bloomquist, Versatile Solutions, and Retiring Board Members Ruben Cardenas and Jeff Walker. TBB

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