Hermiston Honors Its Own
The lights went down and the stars came out in Hermiston on Wednesday night for the 44th annual Hermiston Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizens Awards Banquet.
About 275 people attended the banquet to honor Hermiston residents who show a focus on dedication, care and community.
“It really is exciting to see people come together from all walks of life to honor those who make a difference in our community,” said Debbie Pedro, executive director of the Hermiston Chamber. “It’s a great night.”
Nineteen individuals were honored during the banquet, including Business of the Year, Man of the Year, and Woman of the Year.
The Man of the Year award presentation took an unusual turn this year as presenters Steve Williams and Dennis Barnett took the opportunity to “Duck Roast” the awardee: Jer Pratton.
After good natured jabs at the font size of Pratton’s notes and the color – and amount – of his hair, the duo began describing his accomplishments, including a long career in education as a teacher, principal and superintendent. Pratton became the then-youngest principal in the state of Oregon in 1974 and retired as the Hermiston School District Superintendent in 2000. He has remained active in education since his retirement, serving as interim superintendent to multiple districts and commuting to Costa Rica to design a school.
He was a major part of the movement to bring the Eastern Oregon Higher Education Center to Hermiston and continues to work with the Hermiston Futures Committee.
“If there’s a major project to be done, Jer is the person to call,” Williams said.
Pratton said he was honored and humbled by the award. He also described a bit about what motivates him to stay involved.
“They say when you die, your life flashes before your eyes,” he said. “Make it worth watching.”
The 2013 Hermiston Woman of the Year humbly took the stage on Wednesday with the idea she did not deserve the award, even after Phil Hamm read a long list of her community accomplishments: She is an active volunteer and has served on the Hermiston Budget Committee, the FunFest Committee, and the Downtown Merchant Association. She is the president of the Desert Arts Council. She started the Hermiston ArtWalk, and she is involved with Toastmasters and New Hope Community Church.
She purchased a trailer to distribute sleeping bags and other materials to the homeless through her involvement at the Hermiston Warming Station. She is an accomplished artist and small business owner, and, when she isn’t volunteering, she is also an Oregon State University professor.
“One of the people I spoke with said, ‘She’s brilliant, organized, focused, talented and just plain nice,’” Hamm said.
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” Corp said. “I love this community . . . I’m really not worthy of this, but I thank you for the thought.”
Heller & Sons Distributing, Inc., received the Bob Severson Rotary Business of the Year award. Heller & Sons was recognized for their pink delivery truck – which gives a portion of all proceeds to Sisters Influencing Survivorship – and their support of local organizations and events. The business also donated its “six-figure windfall” from selling a winning lottery ticket to area schools. Bryn Browning presented the award.
“To say this business fuels our local economy is true – both literally and figuratively,” she said. “This is the type of business that makes our community better in many, many ways.”
Virginia Rome Garcia received the Community Service Award. Garcia is involved with the Hispanic Advisory Committee, a volunteer at Vange John Memorial Hospice, a Court-Appointed Special Advocate, a member of the Hispanic Advisory Committee and a board member of the Black International Awareness Club of Hermiston. She also provides volunteer transportation for CAPECO and volunteers 20-30 hours a month for the Hermiston Warming Station.
“Virginia has always been a giver, not a taker,” George Anderson said while presenting the award. “She is a quiet treasure.”
Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann presented the Mayor’s Award to Hermiston City Manager Ed Brookshier, who received a standing ovation. Brookshier was honored for his work facilitating growth in Hermiston over the past 23 years. Hermiston Fire Chief Pat Hart presented the Fire Service Award to Tamie Ann Norris.
The Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award, along with its golden shovel, went to Carl Holt. Pedro, presenting the award with State Rep. Greg Smith, called Holt, a longtime business owner and Chamber Ambassador, “one of Hermiston’s greatest fans.”
The Altrusan Outstanding Young Citizen awards went to two local high school students. Tyler Wadekamper was recognized as a hardworking and exceptional leader who challenged himself academically, in extracurricular activities and in volunteer work, yet remained humble. Reed Middleton was recognized for her care for others, including coordinating a clothing drive for the homeless and volunteering throughout the community.
Ten local educators also took the stage for the annual Educators of the Year awards from the Hermiston School District. BJ Wilson, principal at Rocky Heights Elementary, received the “Administrator of the Year” title. The following staff members from each Hermiston school were also honored:
• Jessica McCann, Desert View Elementary School
• Cassie Anderson, Highland Hills Elementary School
• Lindsay Murdock, Rocky Heights Elementary School
• Jackie Whitesell, Sunset Elementary School
• Mary Gorham, West Park Elementary School
• Haley Winters, Armand Larive Middle School
• Sandra Wise-Warner, Sandstone Middle School
• Lisa Frye, Hermiston High School
• Pam Glantz, Hermiston High School