Keizer’s 2021 honorees

The Keizer Chamber of Commerce announced winners at its annual First Citizen Awards at a banquet Saturday, Jan. 22.

While the awards may be presented by the business organization, the honorees should be feted by the whole community for the impact they have had on Keizer.

The First Citizen of Keizer is a lifetime achievement award, bestowed on those whose lives have been dedicated to the city. This year’s winner, Jim Taylor, whose family has made Keizer its home for almost 100 years, has been a champion of kids, local sports and common sense governance. Taylor was deeply involved with Keizer Little League, coaching countless boys and girls. He is best known for serving for 12 years as a Keizer city councilor (2003-15), where his common sense approach to policy always looked for the fair and legal solution. To Taylor, the law is the law. Period.

As a long-time Rotarian, he was involved with every project the club undertook during his membership. If a project needed muscle, he was there.

Taylor is the embodiment of a First Citizen: for him, the community, its people—especially the children—come first. We congratulate Jim on his honor.

Dennis Blackman, one of Keizer’s most generous and genial businesspeople, who flies under the radar of recognition, was the deserving recepient of the Merchant of the Year award. Blackman, owner of Copper Creek Mercantile on River Road, always answers the call when help is needed.

Blackman and his business were instrumental in aiding the Santiam Canyon fire rescue and relief for hundreds of animals and pets that were safely relocated to the state fairgrounds. Blackman is the person who exemplifies ‘He will give you the shirt off his back.’ In ways both big and small, Blackman has given more in goods and financial help than people will ever know because he does not seek fame nor recognition. He just wants to be a good citizen and merchant in his community. 

The Service to Education Award winner, Danielle Bethell, is a Grizzly bear mother when it comes to kids. She is passionate about how they are taught, how they play sports and how they live. That passion led to her successful campaign for a seat on the Salem-Keizer school board, where she has been an unapologetic advocate for what’s best for kids in our classrooms.

Anytime children are involved, it gets Bethell’s attention. The Big Toy project at Keizer Rapids Park and the turf projects at both McNary and McKay high schools had her full involvement. Volunteering time at her own children’s schools is second nature. 

Our kids are lucky to have a Grizzly bear mother like Bethell in their corner.

Each year the leader of the Chamber of Commerce, on their sole discretion award the President’s Award. This year Darrell Fuller, a renaissance man of involvement and volunteering was honored with the award by Bob Shackleford, who had four pages filled with reasons why he chose Fuller.

Fuller’s day job is a successful lobbyist, but his volunteer endeavors have found him in all corners of Keizer, from schools to community projects. A man with four pages of accomplishments is a good choice for the President’s Award.

We know that none of this year’s honorees are involved with projects because they seek the limelight, it is just the opposite. We expect to continue to see their impact throughout the community for a long time.

The Chamber of Commerce added a new honor at this year’s banquet: the Dennis Koho Future First Citizen Award. Named for Keizer’s former mayor, the honor comes with a $1,000 scholarship. A McNary High School senior has to be exceptional in many areas to be nominated for (and to win) this award.

The first recipient of the award was Logan Ready, an athlete and a member of the National Honor Society. 

There were three final nominees for this award. They were all so deserving that the Chamber decided to give the two other nominees a scholarship as well. Good going, Chamber. Congratulations to three students. This is how First Citizens start out. Will we see you accepting an award at a banquet in 2067?