Other honorees at the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce annual dinner were Bill Wrisinger, Sidepockets and Christine Smailys.


About the only surprising thing about Steve Steiner being named 2008 Outstanding Citizen of the Year was that he didn’t pull his head off.

Steiner, a former Blue Springs City Council member and mayor, is known for his antics on stage, but he was brief and sincere as he accepted the award Friday night at the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.

Steiner, whose last stage appearance with the chamber saw him pull his head off during a talent show performance, thanked family and friends and the organizations that have helped and encouraged him throughout the years.

“I’m privileged to have my parents here, for their having instilled in me values,” he said. “I’d also like to thank my wife, Celia, for her encouragement when I thought about running for City Council or when I came home and asked if I could put lights on the house.”

Nominated by the Blue Springs Parks and Recreation Department, Steiner had been nominated twice before. Prior to this year, Steiner said there was talk of nominating him when he was mayor.

“I told them that probably wasn’t a good idea,” he said.

An electrician, businessman, volunteer and creator of the popular Chicago Street Christmas lights program, Steiner’s efforts have been steady over the years. He said he doesn’t consider it too ironic that the year he was nominated was also the year he stepped down as mayor and retreated into the background.

“I’ll be more noticeable this year,” he said. “I certainly would like to get back into things again.”

Since he started it in the 1980s, the Christmas lights program has attracted more than 1 million people – 70,000 last season alone. The money raised is donated to local charities and organizations.

Steiner also been instrumental in StandUp Blue Springs and has provided fireworks and magic demonstrations for several city and school events.

“You can’t campaign for (this award),” he said. “The best way to earn it is to keep doing what I’ve doing.”

** Bill Wrisinger was named 2008 Business Person of the Year, an award based on his community and business efforts within Blue Springs.

Wrisinger, whose chain of Sonic Drive-ins is located within four states, thanked his family, friends and business associates, many of whom whooped and hollered when he won the award.

Having moved to Blue Springs in 1991, Wrisinger has three franchise stores in the city. He complimented the Blue Springs School District as being the main reason he and his family moved to the city. In the end, Wrisinger said his success has been because of the people behind him.

“Business is about people.”

** Sidepockets won the 2008 Outstanding Business of the Year. Its manager, Bill Fickle, accepted the award on behalf of the business, which opened in the city four years ago.

Among its contributions to the city is $7,000 donated to local charities.

** Christine Smailys, owner and operator of Christine’s Salon, was named 2008 Outstanding Connector of the Year. She also serves as the group’s chairman.

** Chamber of Commerce Chairman for 2008, Dena McLean, turned over the reins to Kyle Jones, who will serve as chairman for 2009.

In a surprising speech, McLean acknowledged the difficulties the chamber faced in 2008 with the resignation and later police investigation of former President Debbie Whisler. She said the chamber is heading into the new year with new policies and a new structure of operation.

Jones spoke about many issues, including 2009 goals that include continued efforts to assist local businesses connect, attracting new businesses and help citywide development.