Being a server is more than just a job for Raquel Gomez, it's the opportunity to brighten someone's day with a hot cup of coffee, greet old friends and make new ones.

A longtime server at the IHOP restaurant on Old Redwood Highway, Gomez loves people — and it shows. That's why she's been chosen as Service Person of the Week.

"I'm really a people person with lots of energy," said Gomez, who started working at the Petaluma IHOP 17 years ago. "My mom was a server, and she suggested I become one too, because of my personality. I tried it and loved it."

Gomez started working as a server at La Azteca in Petaluma 20 years ago and moved on to IHOP in 1996. Though she lives in Santa Rosa, she fell in love with the people in Petaluma.

"People here are really nice," she said. "They still remember to open the door for others and are just always there for each other."

Being there for her customers is what Gomez enjoys most about being a waitress. She takes the time to listen to her many regular customers and goes out of her way to make new ones feel right at home.

"It's not just about serving people, it's about being there for people," said Gomez. "I'm there for my customers. Sometimes the only nice part of their day is when they come in to the restaurant. I like being there for them. I've found that so many of my customers have become family to me."

"She is the best server any one can have," said regular IHOP customers Bill and Ines Stark. "It is always a pleasure to be hosted by her. We are sure most of the customers here agree."

"It's a great feeling when customers are happy and talking about you," said Gomez. "Some people become servers because it's a job. I do it because I love it."

Gomez is the third of five people to be named Service Person of the Week. Last week's honoree was Carole Quan, a checker at Lucky Supermarket on Lakeville Street. The first Service Person of the Week was Becky Rowland, an employee of Orchard Supply Hardware.

Once all five service people have been chosen, the readers will have an opportunity to vote online for which one should be crowned Service Person of the Year.

Do you know a Petaluma service person who offers exemplary service?

Write a letter or e-mail a nomination to to tell us why you think your nominee should be considered for Service Person of the Week (no phone calls, please).

Nominations for Service Person can cover all aspects of the service industry, but should not include business owners, managers, directors or those in charge of departments. Previous Service Person of the Year honorees will not be considered for the contest.

This year's winner will be honored in the Argus-Courier and at the 2013 Petaluma Community Awards of Excellence on March 14.

E-mail nominations to Or mail nominations to: Service Person of the Year, Petaluma Argus-Courier, P.O. Box 750308, Petaluma 94975 or drop it by the Argus-Courier office at 719C Southpoint Blvd.