SEQUIM — When it came time to give kudos to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce’s top citizen for 2020, a committee of previous winners were in a bit of a quandary.
“It was clear to us, the committee, that no single person could stand out in an immeasurably harsh and isolating year,” Brown M. Maloney, chair of the chamber’s Citizen of the Year committee, said Tuesday.
Instead, for the first time, the chamber group bestowed Sequim’s top civic honor on the essential workers, from health care staff and volunteers to police officers and firefighters, municipal personnel, teachers among others.
Chamber staff and guests made the Citizen of the Year honor official at the chamber’s annual picnic luncheon on Tuesday, when state Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, highlighted heartfelt speeches.
“How do you thank these folks? It’s an impossible task,” said Chapman, who represents Legislative District 24 along with Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.
“I think I came into contact with everyone on this list,” he added as he looked at a poster filled with Sequim’s essential workers in 2020, “as a citizen, not as a representative.”
The chamber earlier this year gave kudos to staff and volunteers working with local entities such as Olympic Medical Center and other health care facilities, Sequim School District, Clallam County Fire District 3 and City of Sequim, along with staff at local daycare businesses, restaurants, grocery stores and other essential retail stores, local media, hospitality businesses, the U.S. Postal Service, public transit and members of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Sequim City Council member Rachel Anderson echoed those sentiments Tuesday.
“From the deepest part of my heart, I say, ‘Thank you’ to essential workers,” Anderson said.
“My deepest gratitude to everyone who worked to keep our community safe and keep everything going.”
The Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce traditionally awards the Citizen of the Year honor — and occasional Humanitarian Awards — in February, but the committee of former award recipients had wanted to meet in person before they made the choice for 2020, Executive Director Anji Scalf said in a previous interview.
“I think it’s an excellent path to take,” she said of the committee’s decision to honor essential workers.
Nominations for 2021 Citizen of the Year will open in December. Applications can be found on the Citizen of the Year tab on the chamber website and will be distributed to local media outlets in late November.
Created in 1968, the Citizen of the Year Award was designed to recognize those individuals who contribute to the betterment of the community. Former Sequim mayor Peter Black was the first recipient of the award.
The chamber named either one or two recipients since then except for 1973 (none awarded) and 1976 (three individuals honored).
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].