A new award needs to be given out at next year’s Hermiston Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Service Awards banquet – Best Kept Secret.
That honor would have gone this year to the chamber staff for keeping secret the identity of the Woman of the Year – Chamber Executive Director Debbie Pedro.
Pedro and Man of the Year Phil Hamm took top honors at Wednesday night’s 46th annual awards banquet.
“It took a lot to pull this off,” a tearful Pedro said.
Oregon State Rep. Greg Smith presented Pedro with the award, calling her “One heck of a great chamber director.”
Smith said awards banquets are known for perhaps stretching the truth a bit regarding the accomplishments of the winners. He told the story of attending church and having the pastor tell the congregation to read the Book of Mark, Chapter 17. The next week, the pastor asked to see the hands of those who completed his assignment. Many hands went up.
“That’s interesting,” the pastor said. “There are only 16 chapters in the Book of Mark.” But, said Smith, Pedro’s tenure as chamber director has been full of noteworthy accomplishments. She is one of the founders of the Eastern Oregon Women’s Coalition, served as president of the Oregon Chamber of Commerce and is a respected figure at the state capital.
“When she comes to the state capital, everyone knows her,” Smith said. “There have been many projects that have come to this region because of her advocacy.”
Pedro said she’s always had a passion for Hermiston and its citizens.
“I feel there’s so much more to do here and I want to be part of it,” she said.
Greg Harris presented the Man of the Year Award to Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Over the years, said Harris, Hamm has been involved in almost every key facet of the community – from serving on the school board to his tenure as president of the chamber of commerce, his role on the Hermiston Futures Task Force, and participation in the Relay for Life fundraisers.
“He is one of the most respected plant pathologists in the U.S.,” Harris said. “He is a mentor to everyone in the ag community.”
With his 2-year-old granddaughter, Blakely, in his arms, Hamm thanked his wife of 40 years, Linda, for being his “best friend” and allowing him to dedicate his time to the extension service.
“I am deeply humbled and surprised,” Hamm said. “I now know why so many people at the experiment station are here tonight. I was wondering about that.”
The Spirit of Excellence Award was given to Bob Green, executive director of the Good Shepherd Community Health Foundation.
Pedro said Green has made an impact in the Hermiston community in the short time he’s been here.
“He encourages others,” she said. “He makes everyone he comes in contact with feel welcome and involved.”
“I’m very humbled and surprised,” said Green. “And I’m so proud to be a citizen of Hermiston.”
The Hermiston Veterinary Clinic was named the Bob Severson Rotary Business of the Year Award. Over the years, the clinic has support youth sports, the county fair, Special Olympics, and the Two Rivers Correctional Institution’s Rehabilitating Offenders and Canines program.
Kathleen Krosting presented the 2015 Altrusan Young Citizen Award to Andrea Gispert Tello, a Hermiston High School senior and longtime Girl Scout. She has a perfect 4.0 GPA and has volunteered over the years with the annual Veterans Day Dinner, the Thanksgiving Community Fellowship Dinner, the hugs program at Rose Arbor Assisted Living, collected food for the Agape House and volunteers with the Summer Reading Program at the Hermiston Public Library.
The Hermiston School District was the recipient of the Award of Merit for its leadership and contributions to the community.
Presenter Steve Williams said for more than 100 years, the district has positively impacted every member of the community through its dedication to providing the best education to its students. The district has also had a large economic impact on the region with its state-of-the-art Kennison Field that has brought in more than $7 million to the community by hosting statewide athletic events.
“This award is absolutely about the work that goes on in the classrooms every day,” said Dr. Fred Maiocco, district superintendent.
Maiocco presented the Educator of the Year Award to Hermiston High School councilor Melody Bustillos. She is the co-founder of Generation College, which focuses on first-generation college students. Her dedication to her students goes well beyond their time in high school. Over the years, she has personally attended college graduation ceremonies for her former students.
Maiocco also presented the Administrator of the Year Award to Sunset Elementary School Principal Devin Grigg, who has been instrumental in organizing vision screening for district students. Maiocco also noted Grigg’s skill in developing leaders among his staff.
“No award is earned individually,” Grigg said. “It’s earned with colleagues and friends.”
The Fire Service Award, presented by Fire Chief Scott Stanton, was given to Joshua Smith, who not only is a paramedic and firefighter, but also teaches students at Blue Mountain Community College to be emergency service personnel.