Kortschaga feted at Citizen of the Year gala

New Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors sworn in

Derek Kortschaga joined the list of eminent Cranbrookians as the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year for 2014. Kortschaga was lauded — and roasted — at a special ceremony Friday

Derek Kortschaga joined the list of eminent Cranbrookians as the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year for 2014. Kortschaga was lauded — and roasted — at a special ceremony Friday

It was a roast and then some for Cranbrook’s citizen of the year at the inaugural Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce meeting on Friday evening at the Heritage inn.

Derek Kortschaga, the program director with B-104 Total Country radio station in Cranbrook, was recognized for his community service over the past year as part of a dinner to swear in the new 2015 chamber board.

Kortschaga, who was given the chair of honour up at the front of the room, received all sorts of heckling from MCs Jason Wheeldon and D’Arcy Kennedy as the night wore on.

Each table had a ‘Kortsch-Kube’ — a cube with images of Kortschaga on each side along with a list of community events he participated in last year, including shaving his head for the Relay for Life, being Mr. October in the BC SPCA 2015 calendar, boxing Cranbrook Eagles Boxing Club coach Tom White in the 2nd annual Fight Night for Charity and being Santa Claus at the Dodge kids Christmas party.

Kortschaga endured the ribbing from Kenny Bridge, Steve Mercandelli and others who came up to recognize his contributions to the community before addressing the crowd himself.

“When I was told I got this honour this year, I was speechless and I remember Kenny Bridge last year, when he was told that we won the award he was speechless,” Kortschaga joked. “I think there’s a conspiracy afoot to shut us up.”

Jason Wheeldon, left, and D’Arcy Kennedy (right) unveil the date for Derek Kortschaga (middle) during the celebration of Cranbrook’s Citizen of the Year on Friday evening at the Heritage Inn.

Kortschaga drew back into his childhood, noting that he moved 20 times in 17 years as his father served in the Canadian military. For the last 20 years, he has called Cranbrook home, the longest he has ever lived in one place.

Kortschaga said his father taught him the importance of being involved in the community.

“He was a soldier, he followed orders, he gave orders, but the lesson he taught me was unspoken: take care of those who can’t take care of themselves,” Kortschaga said. “He never spoke those few words, but his actions wrote novels.”

He acknowledged local businesses and charity organizations, as well as his co-workers at the radio station, and said they all stood alongside him.

“They always thank me for helping them, but  I do it for selfish reasons. I get great enjoyment from working with different people and causes, and I continue to learn new things,” Korstchaga said.

“I get more than I give.”

Bridge and Mercandelli noted they are involved in many community events, but it is Kortschaga who is often the face of whatever is happening.

“Derek’s always been a great ambassador for many events,” Mercandelli said. “Honestly, he doesn’t volunteer, we volunteer him. Basically, we organize the event and we call up Derek and say, ‘Hey Derek, guess what? You’re in.'”

“He never backs out, he’s always there in a second and ready to go to do something.”

That sentiment was confirmed by Jason Caven, the sales manager at the radio station.

“He constantly and consistently is taking the lead to help organize and help connect other businesses to be a part of it,” said Caven.

“I think Ken Bridge and Steve Mercandelli can talk about many items and events that have been organized where maybe people in the community see it as their idea, but I can tell you it’s that man [Kortschaga] that has helped spearhead it and put it together.”

The new Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce board of directors was sworn in on Friday evening at the inaugural meeting of 2015. David Struthers is serving as the new chamber president, while Chris Thom and Chris Botterill are the first and second vice-presidents. Jeannette Sissons is the treasurer, while Dave Butler is the past president.  The new directors are: Brenna Baker, Jason Fast, Brian Rhodes, Nicole Anker, Jane Campbell, Carrie Schafer, Igor Gallyamov, Ryan Gibbard, Joey Hoechsmann and Heather Jackson.

Before the celebration of Kortschaga’s Citizen of the Year award, the new 2015 chamber of commerce board was sworn in by Coun. Wes Graham, who served as acting mayor.

David Struthers is serving as the new chamber president, while Chris Thom and Chris Botterill are the first and second vice-presidents. Jeannette Sissons is the treasurer, while Dave Butler is the past president.

The new directors are: Brenna Baker, Jason Fast, Brian Rhodes, Nicole Anker, Jane Campbell, Carrie Schafer, Igor Gallyamov, Ryan Gibbard, Joey Hoechsmann and Heather Jackson.

“I’m really excited about the opportunities and challenges that our organization will face in 2015,” said Struthers. “I know that with a very strong staff complement and exceptional board of directors, a bunch of dedicated volunteers and a very strong and growing membership, that we’re certainly up to the task and looking forward to the year.

“Earlier today, the chamber directors and staff met to review the priorities that we established in 2014 and we developed a strategic plan for 2015. I can tell you that the priorities that we’ve identified over the last couple years—which is around maintaining relevance to members, working on areas of advocacy and economic development—will continue to be key priorities for 2015.”