SEQUIM –– Though their numbers have fallen over the past century, the farmer is still king of the Dungeness Valley.
Witness the selection Tuesday of long-time dairyman Gary Smith as the 2013 Citizen of the Year.
“Thank God for farmers,” 2012 Citizen of the Year Kevin Kennedy said before announcing Smith’s award.
Smith, 73, was honored at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet at SunLand Golf and Country Club before a crowd of more than 100.
Smith, whose family’s Maple View Farms is one of two producing dairies left in the valley, was selected from three final nominees for the annual award.
The other two Citizen of the Year nominees, Patsy Mattingley and Al Friess, were awarded community service awards.
The Bill and Esther Littlejohn Humanitarian Award was presented to R. Leo Shipley in recognition of the millions he has donated to the Sequim Senior Activity Center, which changed its name to the Shipley Senior Center in his honor last year.
“Gary epitomizes the small-town rural character that makes Sequim and the Dungeness Valley such a wonderful place,” said Joe Holtrop, director of the Clallam Conservation District, who nominated Smith for the Citizen of the Year award.
“He’s hard-working, he’s loyal, dedicated, unselfish, soft-spoken yet friendly and, probably above all, he’s humble.”
The honor also noted Smith’s commitment to preserving the valley’s water supply.
Past president of the Dungeness Valley Agricultural Water Users Association and the Sequim Prairie Tri-Irrigation Co., Smith was a key player in conserving water by irrigators as the state Department of Ecology imposed the Dungeness Water Rule on the river’s watershed at the beginning of this year.
“This is a very complicated process, and sometimes hard to explain, and sometimes we can’t explain just what it’s going to look like five years from now,” Smith said.
“But I think if we continue to work together, we can end up with a water conservation and a water management plan for the valley that will avert a water crisis.”
Smith credited state, county and tribal officials, as well as local real estate agents and homebuilders for crafting the rule in a way that he said ensures the availability of water for future users.
“He officially represented the irrigators,” Holtrop said.
“But in reality, in my opinion, he represented the whole community — both the present community and the future community”
Tongue in cheek, Kennedy also hailed Smith for his contribution to local youth culture, saying the Smiths’ hay pile was known for years by teens in the valley as the “make-out hay pile.”
“I think that should have been considered,” Smith said as he smiled. “It’s a contribution, right?”
Smith turned over the reins of Maple View Farms to his children who now run the operation, but gave special thanks to his wife, Jan, for “raising me and our four children.”
The couple also will serve as grand marshals of the 2014 Irrigation Festival, set May 2-11.
Shipley, who won the humanitarian award, donated the 9-acre, 51-space Baywood Village mobile home community in July to the center, a donation valued at $1.7 million.
Senior Center Director Michael Smith estimated Shipley’s donations to the center have totalled more than $2.2 million.
“I wish to thank each and every one of you for your responsibility and your contributions to the well-being of this community,” Shipley, 87, told the crowd.
The humanitarian award was first given to the Littlejohns in 2008 for their support of the Olympic Medical Center Cancer Center.
The award was created to recognize those who have made unusually large donations to the community, Chamber President Phil Castell said.
In 2009, the chamber honored Brown and Sara Maloney for their support of various charities in the valley.
Friess was given special honors for his Community Service Award, as the only person ever to be given the honor for consecutive years, 2012 and 2013.
A member of Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club, Sequim Education Foundation, SunLand Water District, Citizens for Sequim Schools and Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church, Friess also reads weekly to third-grade students at Greywolf Elementary School.
“I accept this, but I accept this for all of those people that touched my involvement or participated with me and made things happen,” Friess said.
Mattingley, an architect of the James Center for Performing Arts and member of the Sequim Education Foundation, the Dungeness Health and Wellness Clinic, and the city’s parks and recreation board, hailed other chamber members for their work.
“Sequim would not be what Sequim is without all of your work,” Mattingley said.
________Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.