Chamber Names Christine Peterson Citizen of the Year

Chamber Names Christine Peterson Citizen of the Year

New president sworn in.

Christine Peterson, president of the Friends of Richard Byrd Library, received this year’s Herb Hunter Citizen of the Year.

Peterson was one of three award recipients at the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 10, which also included the swearing in of 2016 Chamber president Karen Fountain of Flowers ‘n’ Ferns and four other board members to three-year terms.

When Peterson joined the Friends of Richard Byrd Library in 2005, it had one annual book sale fundraiser. Since becoming president of the Friends, the organization has increased revenue growth by more than 4,000 percent during a five-year period by instituting direct selling on Amazon, creating a fee for membership program, and through major improvements to its two yearly used book sales.

In addition, Peterson has developed partnerships with local government and private sector organizations including NSF, NGA, General Dynamics and Whole Foods Market to increase cash contributions and book donations.

The Friends also won grants from Discovery and ExxonMobil to hire summer interns to build the library/Friends brand, especially through social media.

Others recognized by the Greater Springfield Chamber for their community dedication were Dave and Christine Heiby, owners of AutoGrip/Beltway Supply, who were presented with the Innovative Entrepreneur Award, and PFC Stephen K. Carter, one of two Fairfax County police officers assigned to the Springfield Town Center, who is this year’s Public Service Award recipient.

The Heibys were recognized for demonstrating innovation, community outreach and perseverance through economic challenges. They founded Beltway Supply Inc. in August 2006 to serve federal, state and local governments. The business model worked well until the economic downturn, sequestration and finally the 2013 government shutdown nearly put them out of business. They retooled and teamed up with friend Gerry Cooper to import and sell AutoGrip, a self-adjusting, locking plyer. In February 2014, AutoGrip became a division of Beltway Supply and the international distributor of AutoGrip tools. Before cofounding Beltway Supply, Christine had worked for 31 years with government and private agencies to assist people with disabilities. Through the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Christine met Tomoko Taguchi at Brain Injury Services (BIS) in Springfield. Taguchi is always looking for jobs for her clients. It was a match and AutoGrip now employs three BIS clients.

Tor Bennett, the Springfield Town Center’s security director, praised PFC Carter for playing “a major role in serving the community while posted at the Springfield Town Center. He always has a contagious and happy demeanor. Stephen has met with tenants to educates them on reducing retail theft. He has also proven to be an outgoing and friendly representative to the shoppers in the center. Officer Carter is extremely professional and very dedicated to serving Fairfax County and this community.”

Serving the community is in incoming Chamber president Fountain’s blood. Through her family’s business, she has been affiliated with the Chamber for more than 40 years. She credited her late mother Karen Brown for leading her to where she is today.

Fountain was elected in November to fill a second three-year board term and will be assisted in setting Chamber policy by 14 other members of the board, including four others installed for three-year terms Thursday night at the Hilton Springfield. They are Marc Erazo, First Virginia Community Bank; Christine Heiby, AutoGrip; Anne Loochtan, NOVA Medical Education Campus; and Tom Pfeifer, Consistent Voice Communications

In 2015 the Board focused on promotion of the new Springfield Town Center and advocated for bringing the FBI headquarters to the underutilized GSA warehouses in Springfield. The FBI relocation will continue to be a priority for the Chamber in 2016.

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