SEQUIM — “Volunteering isn’t something I grew up with,” Jean Wyatt said Tuesday, in front of an appreciative audience and the committee members who recently voted her Sequim’s 2021 Citizen of the Year.
Along with Phil Castell and Lorri Gilchrist, Wyatt was named a finalist for the honor bestowed by the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce and voted on by past winners.
The Sequim Gazette, sister paper to the Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum, sponsored the event. Terry Ward — publisher of the Gazette, PDN and Forum and vice-president of Sound Publishing Inc. — presented the award to Wyatt, who was lauded for her years of behind-the-scenes work with the Sequim Irrigation Festival.
“The festival has taken me down many roads. It’s been very fulfilling,” she said Tuesday.
Vickie Maples, former executive director for the Sequim chamber, nominated Wyatt for the award.
“Our community has learned so much during this era of COVID,” Maples wrote in her nomination letter. “One of the best lessons is our need to honor the quiet heroes that give so much and receive so little recognition. One such hero in our community is Jean Wyatt.
“As a nominee Jean is ‘responsibility-to-the-community’ personified.”
Wyatt has been active with the Irrigation Festival for several years, joining the board in 2006. She was nominated in 2018 for the chamber’s 2017 Citizen of the Year.
Maples recalled Wyatt being the “conscientious, persistent and understanding taskmaster” tackling the “monumental and thankless” task of updating the chamber’s bylaws, policies and procedures.
In addition to developing operating guidelines, a new marketing plan and revitalizing the festival’s arts and crafts fair, she took on the task of developing, updating and redrafting myriad documents when the festival found it necessary to reorganize as a 501(c)4 some years ago, Maples recalled.
“Only Jean knows the many tasks she has performed for the festival over the years — website development and management, years of treasurer budgets and monthly reports, thousands of letters of correspondence, sponsorship and volunteer plaques, and more,” Maples wrote.
Even after her retirement from the festivals executive board, Wyatt remained an active volunteer, Maples said, supporting and mentoring new board members.
“As someone who has worked with Jean for many years (both in my professional career and as a volunteer) I have admired her dedication and loyalty to the many organizations she has helped,” Maples wrote.
“Jean’s ability to utilize her analytical abilities to discern the most appropriate course of action is priceless, her compassion and understanding of others is admirable, and her dedication to doing the right thing, even if it is a difficult or unpopular course of action, is testimony to her strength of character.
“One of the most inspiring aspects of Jean’s character is her sincere modesty and reluctance to accept praise for her accomplishments.”
Wyatt was nominated for the honor also by Renne Emiko Brock, organizer of several local art programs.
“Jean Wyatt is a committed volunteer who will work hard until the whole job is a success. She will tackle spreadsheets, design programs, roll up her sleeves to haul heavy weights, and so much more,” Brock wrote.
Lynn Horton, Sequim Irrigation Festival Royalty director and royalty pageant co-director, as well as Shellie Torrence, co-director of the Sequim Logging Show and an Irrigation Festival executive board member, urged the chamber to honor Wyatt with the Citizen of the Year award.
“Jean has been instrumental in the festival since she joined,” Horton wrote. “She jumped into the helping the festival with both feet and has become one of the most vital part of the festival … She has put thousands of hours in helping the festival be a vital part of our community. She has done this all without the community really knowing her at all.”
Castell, a local business owner, was selected for his dedication and time given to local organizations such as the Masonic Food Bank, Sequim Prairie Grange, Sequim Irrigation Festival and more. Heather Souza of Sound Community Bank nominated Castell.
Known by many as a proud military veteran and champion of veteran concerns, Gilchrist was nominated for her years of community service to a diverse array of local organizations. Her work for the Peninsula Trails Coalition, Dungeness River Center, Humane Society, and others was cited in her nomination. She was nominated by Gretha Davis.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].