By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Two of the biggest projects completed in Keizer last year were the Big Toy play structure at Keizer Rapids Park and the new turf field at McNary High School.
Mark Caillier managed the Big Toy project, while Danielle Bethell was the key person – along with Bob Zielinski – for the turf field project.
Fast forward to last Saturday night’s First Citizen Awards banquet, put on by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce at the Keizer Quality Suites.
Keizer’s First Citizen for 2015? Caillier.
And who did Zielinski, the current chamber president, bestow with the President’s Award? None other than Bethell.
There were more MHS connections. John Honey, the former MHS principal who opened the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) on Portland Road along with Chuck Lee last fall, was presented the Service to Education Award by Chuck and Krina Lee.
Scott White, the Keizer Big Town Hero owner who has donated to MHS and various other community organizations for years, was honored with the Merchant of the Year award.
While none of the recipients were big surprises, Caillier was probably the least surprising of all. In addition to being a former Salem Police Department officer and a former Keizer City Councilor, Caillier is current president of the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association and also heads up the Claggett Creek Watershed Council.
A longtime community volunteer, Caillier worked tirelessly to coordinate the Big Toy project, which was delayed nine months and finally built last June by an army of community volunteers.
Caillier was introduced by former mayor Lore Christopher, last year’s First Citizen recipient. Continuing a trend started last year, Christopher had all former First Citizens in attendance come to the front of the room as this year’s winner was introduced. They continued to stand as Caillier spoke.
“At least 15 of these previous winners worked on the Big Toy,” Caillier said. “When you volunteer, it’s nice to get a thank you once in a while. This is quite the thank you.”
According to Caillier, Keizer easily lives up to its “Pride, Spirit and Volunteerism” motto.
“This whole community just gets you involved,” Caillier said.
In introducing Caillier, Christopher rattled off a long list of activities he has been a part of over the years.
“The recipient of this 2015 First Citizen Award has been a longtime volunteer and overachiever,” Christopher said. “Lucky for us, this individual can’t learn to say no. This recognition has been a long time coming and I am thrilled that I get to be the one to present the award.”
In introducing Bethell, Zielinski noted some people motivate others to get things done, while others show up and enjoy being the worker bees.
“My choice of the person to receive the President’s Award has both of these characteristics, plus this person has an amazing talent to be able to create a project by envisioning the good things that can happen in the community,” Zielinski said.
Bethell, president of the McNary Athletic Boosters Club, was bolstered by the project and is now helping to lead a similar project for McKay High School in Salem.
“I get excited about challenges now,” she said. “I am working with McKay to do a timeline for their turf field. I see opportunities in those struggles. I can’t wait to see it done. We already have a design in mind.”
The Lees noted Honey has changed over the years, thanks in particular to the four years he spent as principal at MHS.
“John Honey didn’t grow up a Keizer kid, but he now claims himself to be a Keizer guy,” Krina Lee said. “Working in Keizer with different groups has helped him come to value how closely connected the Keizer community is and how very easy it is to be engaged in the family atmosphere of the city of Keizer.”
Honey said that is indeed the case.
“I really do consider myself a Keizer guy now,” Honey said. “There is a strong sense of unity and purpose in Keizer.”
The longest introduction speech was from Joe Egli, last year’s Merchant of the Year, about White.
“Everybody knows this person,” Egli said. “This person always says yes. Actually, you don’t say yes or no, you say sure or absolutely. They make it happen.”
White had earlier recognized his father, Glenn, as one of the Pairings of Excellence recipients. There were a total of 12 such winners.
When on stage to accept the Merchant of the Year award, Scott White individually recognized every member of his family sitting at his table.
“It’s been a lot of work and a little bit of fun,” he said with a big grin.
Nathan Bauer served as emcee again this year and encouraged everyone to stop by Big Town Hero.
“Hey everyone, free sandwiches on Monday!” Bauer exclaimed with a laugh.
Look for profiles of each of the individual winners in upcoming issues of the Keizertimes. Please visit our Facebook page for more photos from the banquet.