by Anne Gibson

Members and friends of the Greater Vail Area Chamber of Commerce (GVACOC) gathered amongst the indoor airplanes at the Pima Air and Space Museum on Friday, April 8th for the first annual Celebration of Vail.

In acknowledging the Chambers seventh birthday, GVACOC president Brad Anderson recognized original incorporators Melissa Griebel, Susan Romero, Jerry Gerber, and Steven Katz. It was these community members who had the vision to see the need for a Chamber and acted, he said.

We have been fortunate to have the talents and strengths of past presidents like Melissa Griebel, Greg Durnan, Peter Minot, and Dennis Fischer. They provided the leadership skills to guide the membership toward building on the foundation set by the incorporators, said Anderson.

The current GVACOC membership has grown to 141 business members.

One of the highlights of the evening was the awarding of the first Member of the Year award.  A standing ovation was given to Peter Backus as he entered the stage to receive the award from Congresswoman Martha McSally. The award goes to a chamber member who exemplifies the GVACOC mission “Connecting businesses and community to grow, serve, and enrich the greater Vail area.”

Peter Backus was born in Wisconsin and moved to Tucson in 1963 to attend the University of Arizona. Later, he developed PB Trading Company, a real estate development company.  Concentrating on the Vail area, he developed Antler Crest Estates in 1995 and Rincon Trails in 2000. His latest project is Coyote Creek, a 1,000-acre master planned community in Vail’s Rincon Valley where he and his wife Debbie reside.

He was the first developer in the Vail Unified School District to commit to a roof top fee on homes built in his developments. The fees are used to enhance the educational opportunities for Vail students.

He is currently a member of the Nature Conservancy of Arizona Board of Trustees, the Rincon Institute Board of Directors, and on the University of Arizona Biosphere 2 Research Board of Advisors. He also chairs the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tucson Advisory Board. As a show of commitment to Big Brothers Big Sisters, he and Debbie have dedicated the proceeds from their annual Coyote Creek Festival for the past 19 years.

Representing the people of Arizona’s Second Congressional District in the U. S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Martha McSally served as the guest speaker for the evening. She serves on the Committees of Armed Services and Homeland Security and chair of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. She served 26 years in the U. S. Air Force, retiring as a full Colonel. She is the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat and first to command a fighter squadron in American history.

She is a distinguished graduate of the U. S. Air Force Academy. Representative McSally holds a Masters Degrees from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the U. S. Air War College in Public Policy and Strategic Studies.

She purchased a home in Rita Ranch in 1994.

To be successful you need teamwork, McSally said. You need to know where you are going. Most importantly, you need great vision, resilience, and perseverance.

Representative McSally admitted that the first things she does when she wakes in the morning is to spend ten minutes thinking of all the things she is grateful for.

Congresswoman McSally stated several times that Davis-Monthan (DM) is a national treasure. Protecting DM is my top priority, she said as she noted that DM has a $1.5 billion economic impact on our local economy. She spoke about tactical to air training and the operation of drones around the world as potential future uses of DM.

In attendance at the program were candidates for Arizona Legislative District 14 Mike Holmes and Becky Nutt, and candidates for Pima County Board of Supervisors District 4 John Backer, Steve Christy, and Marla Closen.

06 Celebrating Vail PictureWe had 91 reservations, said Chamber Executive Director Michelle Harrington. We are very pleased with the turn out for this new annual program.




Standing in front of an A-10 “Warthog” is Greater Vail Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Anderson, Congresswoman Martha McSally and the 2016 Member of the Year recipient Peter Backus. Photo by Jeff Logsdon.

About author View all posts

Anne Gibson