A send-off to the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce’s respected and well-loved director was at the center of the chamber’s annual banquet on Thursday.

More than 400 local business and community leaders attended the chamber’s 2016 annual meeting and business exposition at the Van Buren High School.

Thursday’s event was one of the last for Jackie Krutsch as Van Buren Chamber of Commerce executive director, who fulfilled her last day with the chamber on Friday after eight years as director.

Krutsch spoke about her time with the chamber and the support she has received as executive director.

"Smart, talented, strong, creative, fun, outgoing, serious, strategic and visionary are all words that describe the chamber business leaders that I have worked with and those words describe the leaders who will remain long after I have left this position," Krutsch said. "I could not have worked with a better group of individuals."

Looking to the future of the chamber, Krutsch called its leaders strong and its path on track.

"Know that you have the leadership and talent to move forward and create the best possible, business-friendly environment for Van Buren," Krutsch said. "It is a process, not a short-term project. Through the leadership of a strong chamber, the community can continue to grow and develop in a strategic and sustainable manner."

Krutsch recognized those who encouraged her to take the position and became emotional when saying her good-byes.

"Van Buren and Crawford County will always be a part of who I am," Krutsch said.

Both chamber membership and regional alliances have expanded under Krutsch’s leadership.

State representatives Charlene Fite and Gary Deffenbaugh presented Krutsch with a plaque to honor her time as chamber director.

"I just want to say how much we appreciate your work in Van Buren and Crawford County," Deffenbaugh said. "You’ve done a marvelous job and we just want to thank you for it."

Van Buren Chamber of Commerce Board members also presented Krutsch with a plaque for her service to the chamber, announced by the board’s chairman Lyn Miller and present by Jim Petty, the board’s vice chairman.

"Jackie, even though you’re leaving your post, this is not goodbye," Miller said. "You will always have our hearts and you will always have a place in Van Buren."

Also during the banquet, Lisa Huckelbury, past recipient of the Iverson Riggs Memorial Citizen of the Year Award, presented the award for this year’s winner Debbie Foliart.

Because Foliart already had planned a family vacation at the time of the banquet, she was announced as the winner and received her award on May 24.

At the June 9 banquet, Huckelbury again presented the award and it was received by Foliart’s brother, Darrell Spencer.

Foliart is one of 12 members to have been selected to serve on the national advisory board for Leadercast, hosted by Giant Impact out of Atlanta, which simulcasts to hundreds of locations in 22 countries.

Foliart introduced Leadercast to Van Buren in 2011. This year’s event was the only site in a 60-mile radius.

Foliart is a member of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce board and also the board’s executive committee, has served as Prime Time Expo chairman the inaugural year, is currently a member of the Women’s League of Van Buren and is serving as Education Committee Chair for the second year.

She is a board member of Van Buren Original, a downtown revitalization board and has been a member of the Van Buren Kiwanis Club, serving as president for one year. She is a member of the Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission, serving as chairman for the past three years.

Also announced was the 2015-2016 Van Buren Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year, Nathan Riggs, who is part owner of Turf-Pro USA.