Downtown Santa Barbara Celebrates Community Members With Annual Awards Breakfast

Release Date: February 22,2018

Santa Barbara Fire Chief Pat McElroy and business owner Tony Arroyo were among the people honored this week at Downtown Santa Barbara’s annual awards breakfast.

McElroy, who is retiring in March, was named citizen of the year for his decades of service to the city, said Downtown Santa Barbara spokeswoman Kate Schwab.

His local firefighting career started in the 1970s, and he was named chief in 2013.

McElroy was recognized at the Wednesday event for his leadership and commitment during the Thomas Fire and the Montecito debris flows.

Tony Arroyo, owner of Los Arroyos restaurants, received the 2017 business champion of the year award for providing free meals to first responders during the Thomas Fire, taking food to Earl Warren Showgrounds and the front lines.

“During the worst days of the fire, smoke and ash, when so many were evacuating or were forced to close their doors to avoid the nightmarish, unsafe conditions, on that Saturday from hell we’ll not soon forget, this man saw a need and filled it, by opening his kitchen and personally cooking meals for 60 firefighters,” said Joanne Funari of American Riviera Bank when presenting the award.

“During the entire disaster, this man served more than 800 meals to first responders at Earl Warren as well as on-site, taking much welcome food to the exhausted workers. To this day, no first responder is allowed to pay for food at his restaurants.”

San Marcos High School senior Layla Landeros won the Harriet Miller Youth Leadership Award for her impressive resume, which includes being president of the AAPLE Academy (Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment), Kids Helping Kids’ director of the VIP event for the fundraising benefit concert, and a varsity cheerleader.

She founded the San Marcos Royal Gems, a cheerleading team for students with disabilities, which also has members of the varsity squad among its participants.

Traci Taitt of The Towbes Group, Inc. received the 2017 George Gerth Volunteer Award for her work as vice president of the Downtown Santa Barbara board of directors.

“She attends our events, and her no-nonsense presence in meetings keeps the board and our committees firmly on track,” said Schwab, who presented Taitt with the award.

Ginny Brush, former executive director of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, was given the Richard Breza Excellence in Public Service Award.

“She’s been a board member for years, and that, as well as in her work capacity as county arts commissioner, no one has been a greater advocate for the arts in this community,” Schwab said.‚Äč

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at

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