Cheryl Maki makes McCann

Businesswoman, former mayor a proud Auburnite
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Cheryl Maki doesn’t have time for gardening, painting tea cups or mountain biking. There’s only one pursuit for her. “Auburn’s my hobby,” she said. “My husband likes to ski and fish. I like to be involved in Auburn.” Perhaps it’s because she’ll never give up on Auburn that she was picked as the 2010 Vernon Gould McCann Award winner. The McCann Award, considered Auburn’s top honor, is given yearly by the Auburn Journal to mark a lifetime of service benefiting the community. “I was overwhelmed, completely shocked, but of course I’m very, very honored,” Maki said. “When you’re as outspoken as I am, you don’t always make friends. I always thought I was a bit too controversial to receive the McCann. I’m deeply grateful and honored.” Maki, 61, has lived in Placer County for 36 years and has called Auburn home since 1976. She and husband Randy — the couple celebrates their 35th wedding anniversary later this year — own Maki Heating & Air Conditioning Inc., which they started in the early 1980s. “Opening a business changes and enhances your vision of everything. You realize how little control you have over everything,” Maki said. “I was fortunate because the people in Auburn are very receptive to new business. They want to try it out, they want to give you a chance. Auburn’s always been good to us.” A lot’s changed since Maki moved to Auburn, but a constant has been her community involvement. It started when Maki joined Soroptimist International of Auburn in 1981, the same year she also opened a hair salon, The Cutting Room, which was located on Linden Avenue. “Those women taught me about community service,” Maki said of the Soroptimists. “I kind of feel like it’s my job to teach the younger women.” Fellow Soroptimist and former Auburn mayor Annabell McCord was the one who suggested Maki run for Auburn City Council. “Most of my friends thought I was crazy but it was something I wanted to do. I felt I could make good decisions,” Maki said. Maki served on the council from 1994-1998 and again from 2000-2004, and served as mayor twice. “I learned I can’t please everybody,” Maki said. Maki has taken on many causes over the years, one of her favorites being leading the fundraising drive for the Auburn Skate Park. “After going to skate parks up and down the state I went to the council and said, ‘We’ve got to have one of these,’” Maki said. “There’s not hardly a day that goes by that somebody doesn’t say ‘Thank God we have that skate park.’ All in all it’s a good thing for this community.” Maki’s current community connections include, but are not limited to, serving on the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center executive board and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. She’s also co-chairwoman of the Think Auburn First effort to support local businesses. “It’s really a wonderful idea,” Maki said of Think Auburn First. “We have a wonderful, hard-working committee.” Kevin Hanley, Auburn City Council member and co-chairman of Think Auburn First, thinks Maki deserves the McCann Award. “It’s almost an exhaustive list, the things she’s involved in, and she and her husband run a business full time on top of that,” Hanley said of Maki. “She’s involved in every aspect of Auburn, and in a good way.” Bernie Schroeder, City of Auburn’s engineering division manager, has known Maki for roughly 16 years. Schroeder and Auburnite Sue Dossa were the two to nominate Maki for the McCann Award. “She seemed to be one of those people in the community who drove a really passionate energy to get things done,” Schroeder said of Maki. “She is getting her just recognition. It means so much to her, and just knowing that puts a big smile on my face.” Maki said she’s not resting on her laurels any time soon, but noted that Auburn is full of young men and women who have the potential to contribute great things to the community. “It has a small town charm but it’s got big town ideas from a lot of innovative people,” Maki said of Auburn. “It seems to me that the people in this community can get anything done if they put their minds to it.” Maki takes great pride in her hobby. “I never had a home until I came to Auburn,” she said. “It became my home and I want to keep and protect it for my children and grandchildren. I want to keep it how it was when I got here, only better.” Reach Loryll Nicolaisen at