2019 4-H Alumni Honoree – Tony Ghisla

Congratulations to the 2019 4-H Alumni Honoree Tony Ghisla!

Santa Rosa banking executive Tony Ghisla, a former 4-H Club member who is a respected community leader and stalwart supporter of 4-H and other youth leadership programs, is the 2019 recipient of the 4-H Alumni Recognition Award.

The 4-H Alumni Award, presented by the Youth Ag & Leadership Foundation of Sonoma County, honors a former 4-H Club member who upholds the values of leadership, citizenship and community service, which are the hallmarks of the 4-H program. Ghisla will be recognized at the Foundation’s annual BBQ fundraiser on Aug. 24 at Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard in Windsor.

Ghisla, whose banking career spans 38 years, said 4-H had a tremendous influence on his life, providing skills he uses today in life, business and community involvement.

“4-H taught me to be disciplined, organized and to determine priorities and set time lines,” said Ghisla. “We also learned that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. These were life lessons that have carried me through the years.”

In the 4-H spirit, Ghisla continues to give back. He serves as chairman of the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Foundation and is a director of the Kenwood Fire Department and the Hanna Boys Center Agriculture Department Board. He is a director and past president of the Youth Ag & Leadership Foundation of Sonoma County.

Ghisla, 59, grew up in the rural farming community of Kenwood in the Sonoma Valley in the days before cell phones and the Internet.

“There was not much to do. We fished, rode bikes and watched the prunes grow,” Ghisla remembers. His life changed in 1968 when he learned about 4-H and the many opportunities it offered for leadership, community service and social interaction.  He and his sister joined the newly organized Kenwood 4-H Club, which included many of the children from Kenwood area families like the Kundes, Lawsons, Sands, Gibbs and Jorgensens.

Ghisla’s projects were breeding sheep and chickens. But as he got older he became more interested in leadership roles at the club and county levels and eventually the State and National levels. He said he was fortunate to have the guidance and mentorship of UC Cooperative Extension youth advisers Dee Whitmire and Harriet Polansky who saw potential in the earnest kid from Kenwood.

“Dee and Harriet gently nudged 4-H members to reach beyond their comfort levels,” Ghisla said. “They were very nurturing.”

Ghisla achieved the rank of Sonoma County All Star and in 1978 was named State Diamond Star. He won the 4-H National Citizenship Award in 1979.

A 1977 graduate of Santa Rosa High School, Ghisla earned a bachelor of science degree from California State University, Chico in 1981. He also holds an MBA from Golden Gate University and is a graduate of the University of Washington’s Banking School.  During his nearly 40-year career, he has moved from lending positions to executive officer leadership roles with Exchange Bank and now Poppy Bank in Santa Rosa.

Ghisla continues to make his home in Kenwood. He and his wife Cheryl have two grown daughters, Adrienne and Kim, who were both 4-H Club members, and a granddaughter who will one day follow in the family 4-H tradition.

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