During his 24 years with the City of Calabasas, Jeff Rubin has worked hard to develop and maintain the local parks and open spaces. So it’s no surprise that the city’s community services director was named the 2019 recipient of the Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Calabasas Award.
The honor is given in memory of Bill Van Gieson for his volunteering and leadership in the early days of the Chamber, and is awarded annually to an individual in Calabasas who demonstrates a similar initiative and pioneering spirit in the community.
Rubin received the award at a Jan. 25 dinner hosted by the Chamber in the civic center’s Founders Hall. In his acceptance speech, Rubin thanked his wife and two daughters.
He said he began working for the city in the summer of 1994. He met Greg Johnson, then director of community services, in a bar. Rubin called Johnson regularly about a position with the city, and when Johnson offered him a job it was part-time at $12 an hour. It was a risk.
“My wife, Lisa, and I had just bought our first house in Calabasas. My daughter was going to be 3 years old,” said Rubin, who at the time was working as a teacher. “How could I possibly leave a full-time job with medical benefits for a (position offered by a) guy I met in a bar?”
Rubin said he took the offer because he was passionate about the work, and his wife convinced him that money should not be the only factor in his decision. Shortly after Rubin started, Johnson told him that if he could successfully oversee the city’s annual Pumpkin Festival, which was only a few months away, he would be given a full-time position. Rubin met the challenge and has been instrumental in the city’s park and recreation programs ever since.
Calabasas Mayor David Shapiro praised Rubin’s career with the city and said it was that passion for the work that won him the Spirit of Calabasas Award.
“Jeff truly represents the spirit of Calabasas. If you go anywhere, the Pumpkin Festival, (a city) sporting event, anywhere, people will ask, ‘Where’s Jeff? How’s Jeff?’” Shapiro said. “Jeff is fantastic, and he does represent us extremely well, and we’re all proud and very thrilled to have (him).”
At the same dinner, the Chamber gave the Chairman’s Award to Raychel Harrison, founder of Salon Nuuvo. Jeanne Garrison, chair of the Chamber of Commerce, said the award is given to someone who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and community involvement, and Harrison, who volunteers to help at every Chamber event that needs it, demonstrates those qualities.
“(Harrison) joined the CoC board of directors in 2016 like a lightning bolt and a burst of sunshine. Our honoree has operated a very successful business for eight years,” Garrison said. “Not only is it an eco-green business with the city, for the past three years the (salon has carried) its own (organic) product line.”
After the awards, Garrison announced that Chamber of Commerce First Vice Chair Mark Levinson would become the organization’s new chair.
Levinson said he hoped to continue the Chamber’s growth.
“We are moving forward. We have new programs thanks to (Chamber CEO) Pamela (Kissel) and Jeanne (Garrison), who have been true leaders for the community and for the Chamber, and the citizens of Calabasas,” Levinson said. “I have to say that as chairman, moving forward, it’s not a question of picking up pieces, because the Chamber has been left in great shape, making my job easier.”
The night ended with the stepping down of the Chamber’s 2018 board of directors. Shapiro led the swearing-in ceremony for the 15 new board members.
The incoming board chairman is Mark Levinson, a family attorney.