Press Release

Wednesday, May 8

AWB presents 2013 service and leadership awards

Former Auditor Brian Sonntag, Olympia business leader Don Conant and trucking company co-owner Ed Vander Pol recognized for contributions to Washington

SPOKANE — Washington’s recently retired state auditor, a small business leader who is helping to shape the future of health care, and a trucking company co-owner who makes it possible to get surplus produce to people in need were all honored Tuesday by the Association of Washington Business.

Former Washington state Auditor Brian Sonntag, Don Conant of Valley Nut & Bolt, and Oak Harbor Freight Lines’ Ed Vander Pol received AWB’s highest awards for service and leadership during the organization’s annual Spring Meeting at The Davenport Hotel in Spokane.

“This year’s award winners represent the best that Washington has to offer, serving everyone from taxpayers and employers to folks in need with dedication and distinction,” said AWB President Don Brunell. “We are grateful for their contributions to this state and congratulate them on these well-deserved honors.”


Former Washington state Auditor Brian Sonntag is the recipient of the 2013 C. David Gordon Award, AWB’s highest award in recognition of Washingtonians who distinguish themselves in service to the state.

During his two decades as Washington state auditor, Sonntag distinguished himself and the office through his tireless work to hold government accountable for its actions, and to ensure that it is open and transparent to the public it serves.

Sonntag, who comes from a family of public servants, began his political career at age 26 when he was elected Pierce County clerk. He moved on to become Pierce County auditor before being elected state auditor in 1992. During his tenure, Sonntag implemented the state’s first performance audits, looking not only at a public agency’s books but also the way it operates.

He also became a champion for open government, urging the Legislature to adopt a constitutional amendment banning title-only bills, and requiring at least 72 hours’ notice before holding a hearing on a proposed bill. Sonntag’s work won him praise from Democrats and Republicans alike. After retiring from office early this year, Sonntag joined his wife, Jann, working at The Rescue Mission in Tacoma.


Don Conant, general manager of Valley Nut & Bolt in Olympia, received this year’s Judy Coovert Award. The award recognizes excellence in volunteerism to the association.

For the last several years, Conant has immersed himself in one of the more complicated and controversial public policy issues of our time: health care. By serving not only as chairman of AWB’s Health Care Committee, but also on the board of the state’s new health benefit exchange, Conant has provided valuable and unique insight, giving both business and government a window into each other’s worlds.

Conant, who also serves on AWB’s executive committee, has remained a vocal advocate for the interests of employers, particularly small business, as Washington state implements the federal health care law.


Ed Vander Pol, co-owner of Oak Harbor Freight Lines, was awarded the Bruce Briggs Award, which is presented each year to the AWB member who continues to give back to his or her community.

Vander Pol and his brother, David, serve as co-owners of the largest carrier service in the Northwest, serving more regional delivery points than any other single carrier.

The family-owned business first began in 1936 when John and Gus Vander Pol purchased Oak Harbor Transfer for $600 cash. Their younger brother, Henry, joined the business in 1937, purchasing another carrier, Oak Harbor Freight Lines. In 1974, Henry purchased the company in full — which is when his sons, Ed and David, joined the business.

Over the last 15 years, Ed Vander Pol has volunteered the company’s service to bring produce from farms to the cities. Oak Harbor Freight routinely donates vacant space in its empty trailers traveling across California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington to transport a million pounds of produce a year. This helps other AWB member companies like Stemilt Growers and National Frozen Foods, ship surplus fresh vegetables to people in need, rather than let them rot in the fields or packing sheds.

Event photos are currently posted online; video profiles of each honoree will also be available this week.

About the Association of Washington Business
Formed in 1904, the Association of Washington Business is Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes more than 8,000 members representing 700,000 employees. AWB serves as both the state’s chamber of commerce and the manufacturing and technology association. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, 90 percent of AWB members employ fewer than 100 people. More than half of AWB’s members employ fewer than 10. For more about AWB, visit

Back To News