By LYNDON ZAITZ & ROBIN BARNEY
At a well-attended banquet on Saturday, Jan. 21, the Keizer Chamber of Commerce staged its annual First Citizen Awards event, honoring Marsha Stallings among others.
Every year the Keizer Chamber of Commerce honors those in the community that go above and beyond the call of duty assisting the community, the Chamber, or businesses in Keizer. This year’s award recipients was a cross-section of people who give of their time and expertise, exemplifying the city’s motto: Pride, Spirit and Volunteerism.
The awards presented Saturday night were: First Citizen, Merchant of the Year, President’s Award, Service to Education and Future First Citizen’s Award.
The First Citizen Award is bestowed on an individual who has dedicated time and talent to benefit the quality of life of our past, present and future. In 1964 the first First Citizen Award was given to Robert O Smith for his achievements in the Keizer community.
The 2022 First Citizen is Marsha Stallings, who was visibly shocked by the announcement.
Presenter Jonathan Thompson (stepping in for last year’s winner, Jim Taylor) read a list of Stallings recent activities in the community. “Many of the events that make Keizer so special work because this person is behind the scenes working. For example, both the KeizerFEST Parade and the Holiday Lights Parade work as well as they do because they get things organized and then are there to make sure it all goes smoothly,” Thompson said before announcing that Stallings was the winner.
“Where she really shines,” Thompson continued, “is during the Keizer Network of Women’s Giving Basket program. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Santa Central when this person was not there working hard. She makes sure that gifts are organized and ready for families. She’s then instrumental in getting those gifts to drivers for delivery. Hundreds of local families have Christmas thanks, in part, to our winner’s hard work.”
Thompson also cited Stalling’s volunteer work helping to hang Keizer’s holiday lights and the Christmas tree at Walery Plaza.
When she stepped to the microphone, with tears in her eyes, said, “I love my family and I love all of you. Corri (Faladreau, the Chamber’s executive director), thank you for letting me be a part of everything. I really appreciate it. Please don’t let me say anything else.”
The Merchant of the Year is given to an individual or business that did the most in for the Keizer Business Community. The honoree must be a Keizer Chamber member and has assisted moving forward the organization of: developing the current and future workforce, promote Keizer, advocating for business and economic development. In 1959 the first Merchant of the Year was given to Ray Boucher for his achievements in the Keizer business community and helping form the Chamber of Commerce’s forerunner the Keizer Merchants Associaiton.
Lyndon Zaitz, publisher of the Keizertimes, is the 2022 Merchant of the Year. Recorded testimonials shown after his name was announced including comments from former Mayor Lore Christopher and others citing Zaitz’s volunteer work in the community as well as being a supporter of small businesses.
His father, Clarence won the same award in 1964; his brother Les, and his wife, Scotta Callister won the award in 1994.
The Service to Education Award is given to an individual who is a Keizer-area administrator, teacher or volunteer. The honoree is someone who is actively involved in the community and has made an outstanding contribution to the betterment of education. Recepients of the award must serve, volunteer or dedicate time and talent to benefit the youth in Keizer. The first Service to Education Award was given to Mickey McClure for his achievements in the Keizer education system.
The popular winner of the 2022 award was Erik Jespersen, principal of McNary High School. Jespersen won the award based on his standing in within and outside the education community. He has overseen a graduation rate near 98%. He instituted the 1-1-1 plan for students—one sport, one club and one activity, to keep students engaged. Though not a Keizer resident, Jespersen is seen at many community events, some due to his Rotary Club membership. He was heralded on video by personal testimonies of students, staff and community members.
In 2021 a new award was established for youth in the community. The Dennis Koho Future First Citizen’s Award is given to a senior in high school who has exemplified Keizer’s motto within their work, volunteering, or activism for the Keizer community. The winner has dedicated time and talent to benefit the quality of life of our past, present, and future. The senior must apply for this scholarship award. The first Future First Citizen’s Award was given in 2021 to Logan Ready for excelling as a youth and future citizen.
There are five nominees for the award, each featured in a video spotlight of their accomplishments at school and in the community. This year the nominees were: Logan Bowlby, Cooper Cripe, Hunter Ruberto, Jetta Mowrey, and Aiden Wilson.
Jetta Mowrey was announced the winner by Tammy Ready.
“Thank you to everyone here today, “ said Mowrey, “Mr. Jespersen, the best principal ever.” She went on to thank Rhonda Rhodes, the principal of the Career Technical Education Center (CTEC), for supporting her decisions.
Tim Davis, CEO of Valor Mentoring in Keizer was presented with the President’s Award by James Hutches. This award is decided by the board president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. Davis was selected for his work with youth in the region. Davis and Valor Mentoring took over Town and Country Bowl in 2020, renamed it The Rec, creating a community-focused hub for recreation, a gathering place for community groups, a music venue for youth and audio-visual studios.
“Tonight’s honoree is a great example of someone who sees a profound need in our community and passionately rallies others to help address that need,” Hutches said of Davis.