Citizen of the Year Harold Edwards (left) receives a plaque from Chamber President Marilyn Appleby and awards emcee John Chamberlain at the March 1 Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner.

Limoneira CEO Edwards has ‘George Bailey moment’ as Citizen of the Year

March 03, 2017
Santa Paula News

Harold Edwards couldn’t hide that he was delighted but humbled to be the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Citizen of the Year.

“When I found out, it was my George Bailey moment,” said Edwards of the famed character, played by Jimmy Stewart, who finally realizes the positive impact he’s had on others’ lives in the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” released in 1947.

Indeed it has been a wonderful life for Edwards, President & CEO of Limoneira Co. who was being lauded along with other award recipients for their impacts on business and the community. 

Held Wednesday at the Community Center, the awards dinner featured a State of the City Address by Mayor Jenny Crosswhite and honors given to Dianne and Dudley Davis who received the Sam Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, Community Service Award recipients Elvia Hernandez and Carlos Juarez, Non-Profit of the Year Blanchard Community Library, Business Beautification Award — Santa Paula Orthodontics Jared T. Lee, DDS MS, Small Business of the Year Red Hot Foods/Santa Paula Salas Co. Burma and Butch Baselice and Large Business of the Year Bank of the Sierra. 

Chamber CEO Jack Pitluk welcomed the crowd and introduced Chamber President Marilyn Appleby and emcee John Chamberlain. 

Girl Scout Troops 60292, 60040 and 60638 provided the Color Guard and led the Pledge of Allegiance and the Reverend Maddie Sifantus led the invocation.

“The eyes of the globe are on the Citrus Capital of the World, our own Santa Paula!” said Chamberlain who introduced some notables in the crowd including Ventura County Supervisor Kelly Long, Santa Paula Vice Mayor Ginger Gherardi, Councilmen Clint Garman, Martin Hernandez and John Procter, Ventura County CEO Mike Powers, Santa Paula Police Steve McLean and Fire Chief Rick Araiza. 

Powers presented the Citizen of the Year Award to Edwards who as a young boy moved to Santa Paula with his parents, Dr. Sam and Marcia Edwards. 

After graduating from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon where he received a BA in International Affairs, Edwards received an MBA from American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird).

After an international career leading various worldwide companies including Ralston Purina, in November 2003 Edwards was named President and CEO of Limoneira Company, a 124-year old global, vertically integrated agribusiness concern based in Santa Paula.  

Edwards is a fifth generation member of one of the farming families to be associated with the company over its long history.  

Founded in 1893, the Limoneira Company pioneered the California citrus industry and today produces lemons, Navel and Valencia oranges, specialty citrus, avocados, and pistachios for the domestic and worldwide markets. Limoneira also has real estate assets and, with Lewis Co., is developing Harvest at Limoneira, a residential and commercial project on the east side of Santa Paula.

Edwards has three children, Sam, Sophia and Blake.

“I think Harold was a little worried,” about receiving the Citizen of the Year Award, said Powers. “But he has done so much for the community. Harold, did you ever know that you’re my hero, and everything I would like to be?”

The crowd started to titter as they recognized where Powers was going with the famous song: “I can fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings!

“There are a lot of heroes in Santa Paula,” including the late Dr. Sam and Marcia Edwards, who was at her son’s table with his son Blake.

Dr. Sam “was such a great physician, rancher and person — they both graduated from Harvard. And I’ve known Harold since grammar school so I was surprised when he asked me to talk!” 

Powers said he “heard from Sam about Harold’s exploits and when Limoneira was looking for a CEO here comes Harold, only the sixth CEO the company has had in its history.”

Edwards was a “perfect match, he had the family knowledge of farming,” and strong global business experience.  

“But,” noted Powers, “it starts with family, starts with roots,” and community. 

“I love how much Harold loves this community — be careful about asking him about history, one-two-three he’ll tell you. When we’re out we talk about family, but he also talks about community,” and issues such as schools, fire, police and the people.

Powers said such dedication to community is reflected in the new Harvest at Limoneira development: “You see it — it has houses, parks, schools, health care…voters approved it by 83 percent, which was remarkable. It’s so exciting to see it come to fruition.

“It really raised the bar high!”

The Edwards, father and son, have been dedicated to the reopened Santa Paula Hospital. When the facility, the only such medical center in the Santa Clara River Valley serving about 50,000, was closed amid a controversial bankruptcy, Dr. Sam worked with the county to purchase and reopen it. 

“But after we opened,” Powers said, “we needed Harold and Limoneira to make sure it stayed open.”

Edwards is Chairman of the Board of the Health Foundation for Ventura County, which benefits the VCHCA, but especially Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital. 

“Harold has always been there and I can’t thank him enough…Limoneira is so generous, so are their employees who donate,” to many organizations and programs. 

Powers noted that Limoneira is covering the world in lemons amid innovative growing techniques: 

“Limoneira is really going forward, it’s all about innovation and courage and energy efficiency. Limoneira had the first solar orchard in the county,” providing renewable power for packinghouses and ranch housing. 

Edwards and Limoneira, said Powers, “Is all about unleashing lemons all over the place! I was out with Harold and Alex (Teague, Limoneira VP) once and I made the mistake of ordering a drink with lime in it. They straightened me out! 

“Harold’s vision,” in business while being “such a great friend to the community,” demonstrates that “every team needs a leader. I’m so fortunate and proud to call you my friend,” and noted Powers, “and call you the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year!”

“I want to meet that guy,” Edwards joked about Powers remarks. 

He thanked the chamber, “a great organization” and said, “I’ve been so proud of so many things in this community. It’s really putting Santa Paula on the map. I want to thank my Mom, I wouldn’t be here without Mom.”

Edwards said he grew up in Santa Paula, first attending McKevett Elementary School and later, when the Edwards moved to the family ranch, The Little Red Schoolhouse (Santa Clara School).

“Mom created the first AYSO,” soccer organization in Santa Paula and Edwards had the pleasure to “score the first point in the AYSO! I’m so proud of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, the hospital and foundation.”

Edwards also gave a “shout out” to Police Chief Steve McLean and thanked “everybody in public service, it’s not an easy task.”

Overall, said Edwards, “This is my George Bailey moment and I couldn’t be more proud!”

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