Holding their Leadership trophies presented to them in an awards program Saturday at the Port Ludlow Marina are, from left, Rob Birman, executive director of Centrum, Business Leader of the Year; Akira Anderson, Future Business Leader of the Year; and Wendy and Brent Davis, owners of Lila’s Kitchen, Rising Entrepreneur of the year. Two other winners who were unable to attend are Ariel Speser, Citizen of the Year, and Dr. Allison Berry, Young Professional of the Year. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Holding their Leadership trophies presented to them in an awards program Saturday at the Port Ludlow Marina are, from left, Rob Birman, executive director of Centrum, Business Leader of the Year; Akira Anderson, Future Business Leader of the Year; and Wendy and Brent Davis, owners of Lila’s Kitchen, Rising Entrepreneur of the year. Two other winners who were unable to attend are Ariel Speser, Citizen of the Year, and Dr. Allison Berry, Young Professional of the Year. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Community leadership awards honor heroes

Former City Council member Citizen of Year

PORT LUDLOW — Past Port Townsend City Council member Ariel Speser is the 2022 Citizen of the Year.

She was honored at the 2022 Jefferson County Community Leadership Awards ceremony at the Port Ludlow Marina on Saturday, along with the winners in four other categories.

They are:

• Rob Birman, executive director of Centrum, Business Leader of the Year;

• Akira Anderson, a graduating Chimacum High School senior, Future Business Leader of the Year;

• Wendy and Brent Davis, owners of Lila’s Kitchen, Rising Entrepreneur of the Year.

• Dr. Allison Berry, public health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, Young Professional of the Year.

Neither Speser nor Berry were able to attend the ceremony, said Arlene Alen, executive director of The Chamber of Jefferson County, which organized the community awards, but the contributions of both were well recognized.

Speser, who was 35 two years ago when the birth of her first child was announced, is possibly the youngest person to be named Citizen of the Year, an honor generally recognizing lifetime achievement, Alen said.

“She’s very young, but in her short life, she has done so much that they gave her the award knowing she has years more to give,” Alen said.

Speser is a state assistant attorney general in the Port Angeles office, does legal work for vulnerable children, was involved in the Northwest Justice Project and served as a pro bono lawyer practicing family law, among other accomplishments, Alen said.

Those included one term of service on the city council, form 2018-22, work on the Behavioral Health Advisory Board (BHAC), which helps fund substance abuse and mental health services in Jefferson County, and raising two children.

“She is dynamic,” Alen said.

All who won community awards this year were young people, the executive director said.

“I think that’s a remarkable trend in our community,” she commented.

The chamber organizes the community awards but does not judge them. That is done by two community committees, one to narrow nominations to finalists and another to choose the final winners.

The final cut was a very difficult this year, Alen said.

“All of the finalists are outstanding and have given so much to the community,” she said.

Berry, who has been a controversial figure during the COVID-19 pandemic on the North Olympic Peninsula “got a massive standing ovation even though she wasn’t there,” Alen said.

“It was so nice to see this diverse group of people appreciate her work,” Alen added.

Birman, who has headed the arts center Centrum since 2013, has worked to expand the artistic gathering place and entertainment venue. Recently, he spearheaded the formation of the Creative Alliance to take over some building maintenance at Fort Worden, where Centrum is based.

That award “goes to a person with a history of vision, service and leadership,” Alen said.

Anderson, the Future Business Leader of the Year, said she believes the most fulfilling thing in life is helping others, Alen said.

She is in Running Start and studies psychology. She serves as captain of her high school club volleyball teams and plans to play college volleyball at the University of Puget Sound.

The Rising Entrepreneur of the Year, Wendy and Brent Davis of Brent Davis Construction, created Lila’s Kitchen as a community kitchen for caterers but changed the model into a food hall after the pandemic began to help entrepreneurs who couldn’t yet afford their own brick-and-mortar locations. At the same time, they provided a take-out service — “a tremendous community service as well as a great business,” Alen said.

“Everybody who was in that category was unique and interesting,” she said.

Other finalists in each of the categories were:

Business Leader of the Year Award — Steve Goldenbogen, Whistlestop Toys, and Nancy Karam, Korean Women’s Association.

Rising Entrepreneur Award — Kat Murphy, Katfish Salmon Company, and Jaime Jaynes, Vespertine Boutique.

Young Professional of the Year Award — Crystal Manly of Quilcene Culinary Arts and Brinnon Fire Department.

Future Business Leader Award — Eugenia Phillips Frank, Chimacum High School; Ezra Cook, Port Townsend High School; and Sean Boone, Quilcene High School.

Citizen of the Year Award — Berry; Michelle Sandoval, Windermere Real Estate and past mayor of Port Townsend; Barb Trailer, Northwest Maritime Center; and David Codier, Jefferson County Emergency Management.

For more information, see jeffcountychamber.org.

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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