PORT ANGELES — Steve Methner, a longtime volunteer perhaps best known for leading the rebuild of the Dream Playground, is the 2021 Port Angeles Citizen of the Year.
Business of the Year is 7 Cedars, chosen because of abundant support of community events. Organization of the Year is Lincoln Park BMX; Emerging Business of the Year is Port Angeles Wharf. Educator of the Year is Port Angeles High School history teacher Angie Gooding. Young Leader of the Year is Port Angeles High School Senior Luke Gavin.
The Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce announced the winners of the fourth annual Port Angeles Annual Community Awards.
The winners were chosen from among three finalists in each of the six categories by a panel of judges from the community at large.
This year’s judges were Jen Swanson, from First Federal; Suz Bennett, for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe; Victoria Jones, from the Olympic Discovery Marathon; Jeremy Gilchrist, from the Olympic Medical Center Foundation; Marti Martinez, U.S. Coast Guard retired; Stephanie Thanheiser, from KONP radio; and Steve Duetermann, last year’s winner for Citizen of the Year.
According to Leslie Robertson, events manager for the chamber, the task of choosing the winners was especially difficult this year.
“The judges really had their work cut out for them because there were so many outstanding finalists,” Robertson said.
“I didn’t envy them, because in some cases it was almost an agonizing decision for them to have to choose one winner.”
Robertson emphasized the goal of the awards is to celebrate each of the finalists, not just the winners.
“Although there is ultimately a winner selected in each category, we try to celebrate all the finalists during the awards process. We want to lift each of them up and celebrate them, because they’re all winners for our community.”
Because an in-person gala was not possible in January this year, the winners were notified by chamber board members and staff who showed up with the awards at the winners’ place of work or school to surprise them.
The surprise presentations were arranged with the assistance of co-workers, staff and friends. Videos of those presentations, along with previous videos highlighting the finalists, are available on the chamber website at Portangeles.org
Citizen of the Year
Staff created a fake appointment to make sure Methner was available to receive the award at his Sate Farm Insurance office.
Methner’s community service includes efforts to fund education and improve the infrastructure of local schools, Robertson said.
He is also active in many service projects and community events. Most notably, Robertson said, in 2021, he led the volunteer build of the Dream Playground, which was postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic, and in 2021 ended up falling on a week with record-breaking temperatures.
“In spite of the heat wave, Steve inspired enough volunteers to come help build the playground, which had its grand opening in October of 2021,” she said in a press release issued last week.
Business of the Year
The 7 Cedars board was surprised with the award during its monthly board meeting. The judges selected the business for its sponsorship of multiple community events.
In addition, the loan of its giant tent made it possible for such events as the Fall Festival to happen during the pandemic by allowing people to gather safely outdoors.
“What haven’t they done for the community?” one of the judges said, Robertson reported.
Organization of the Year
Lincoln Park BMX President Sean Coleman and Vice President Jason Groves were surprised by chamber board members and staff during a Saturday work party at the track, Robertson said.
This was the third time for the BMX track to be a finalist for the Organization of the Year award.
It was selected as the 2021 winner because of its percent volunteer makeup and its success at bringing the BMX Gold Cup event and a pump track to Port Angeles.
Said Robertson: Through their bike loan program, the BMX track makes it possible for everyone to ride, and their motto is, “Nobody Sits on the Bench.”
Emerging Business of the Year
Because Port Angeles Wharf owner Erik Marks was out of town, the award was presented to manager Sam Grello in the office of Marc Abshire, chamber executive director, while Marks and several chamber board members watched via Zoom.
Educator of the Year
Gooding was selected “for her use of effective, engaging teaching methods as well as her ability to connect with students,” Robertson said.
She “found innovative ways to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic and continues to be a favorite among students and staff alike.”
Gooding was surprised with the award during class by chamber board members and staff, school district employees and her children, who are students at PAHS.
Young Leader of the Year
Gavin was chosen for his long list of community contributions, including being a unit commander for the local Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC), an award-winning member of the Future Business Leaders of American (FBLA), the student representative to the Port Angeles School Board and a rink manager at the Winter Ice Village.
“The judges were impressed by how much Luke had already accomplished at such a young age and felt that he truly embodied spirit of Young Leader,” Robertson said.
He was surprised at school by chamber board members and staff, as well as members of his family, and was presented the award in front of his NJROTC class, which was arranged by class advisor Captain Jonathan Picker.