This story has been updated.
By LYNDON ZAITZ of the Keizertimes
Kevin Dial was presented the 2023 Keizer’s First Citizen Award at a banquet on Saturday, Jan. 20. The annual awards event is presented by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. Michael Lowery, Brad Lomax, Leslie and Louis Risewick and student Baylee Lawyer were winners as well.
“I looked at the long line of previous winners and saw community leaders, business owners, mayors and people who have spent decades making Keizer this amazing place,” said Dial. “Then I thought, ‘There was no way they just picked the KeizerFEST Garbage Guy to be First Citizen.’”
Dial, a long-time volunteer in the community, was feted by the audience at the Keizer Event Center. He was cited for his ‘tireless’ work with KeizerFEST and other community events. He serves as wildfire recovery manager at the Santiam Canyon Long Term Recovery Group created after the 2022 wildfires. For six years Dial has been a member of the Valor Mentoring board of directors.
“I believe mentoring is a key to success in life,” he said, “Most people can’t find that missing piece in the puzzle until they find the right mentor.”
A man of deep faith, Keizer’s new First Citizen said his faith is the fuel in his engine. “If I say I believe something, than my actions reflect what I believe,” said Dial.
He added that his works have no value “when done for gain or without faith.”
Dial was surrounded by family members when he accepted his award from last year’s winner, Marsha Stallings, and award sponsor, Dr. Jennifer Frankel. His wife, Danielle, appeared via a recorded video.On the stage with the winner four of his sons, Dakota Dial, Jonathan Riddle,Devin and Dylan Dial, and girlfriends Brittanie Gierloff and Tana Mae Fouts.
Kevin Dial and wife Danielle have created a large group of people they call family: foster kids, adoptions, biological, or “kids that just needed a place to call home with a mom and a dad.”
Humbled by the award, Dial said that he knows that the recognition isn’t an ending. “It’s really just a footnote in the middle of what I hope is a very long story,” he said. “The future has so many more great opportunities to make our community a great place to live.”
As for volunteering, Dial would ask people to just start with whatever time, skill or interest they have and then say “Yes.”
“Just take the risk, go out and ask if you can help—you will be surprised,” he concluded.
Louis and Leslie Risewick were honored as Merchants of the Year. The couple own A.J.’s Hideaway Restaurant in Keizer as well as KBZY Radio in Salem. The many areas in which they volunteer time and money include the McNary High School concession stand at Flesher Field, KeizerFEST and Keizer Network of Women’s Giving Basket program during the holidays. Other volunteering outlets for Louis include a seat on the Keizer Fire District board of directors. Leslie serves on the McNary Youth Football board, Percy Presents Auction Committee, the YMCA board, Keizer Chamber of Commerce board and the Valor Mentoring Advisory board.
Leslie said, “We were very surprised and thankful. It was an honor and very heartwarming to know that our community nominated us.”
“We would lead by example,” Leslie Risewick said about volunteering. “(We) invite people along for the ride that are like-minded in serving others.”
The Risewicks have four children: Tristen, Audrey, Henry and Charlie.
Brad Lomax, a McNary High School teacher and coach, won the Mickey McClure Service to Education Award. Lomax teaches eight different classes in the business category and is the boys golf coach. In the presentation of the award, Lomax was cited for his positive impact on both students and athletes.
“I was very surprised,” said Lomax about his winning the award. “I was overwhelmed.” He said he thought he was at the banquet to recognize a friend for receiving the award Lomax ended up winning.
Earlier in January Lomex moved out of the classroom and into an Instructional Mentor program in which he forms partnerships with other McNary teachers to support them in curriculum development, strategies and professional learning.
“Leaving the classroom was tough, but I was ready for a new challenge in my career,” he said.
Lomax believes he needs to the most positive, energetic and personable person in the classroom. As a Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher, his goal has been to give each of his students a competitive advantage.
Always encouraging his students to Go Big, a slogan his classes developed after returning to school after the COVID pandemic.
He also uses various McNary programs to push his students to volunteer in the community including at Bauman Farms, KeizerFEST, the Holiday Lights Parade, the Rotary Club of Keizer and others.
The stage groaned under the weight of all his family members in attendance to cheer him on. Among them were his wife Katelin, his parents, son Jack, daughter Claire, brother Adam and a number of aunts, uncles, nieces and cousins.
The President’s Award, chosen by the Chamber president, was awarded to Mike Lowery, a jack-of-all-trade volunteer for the Chamber and its many events throughout the year.
Baylee Lawyer was presented the Dennis Koho Future First Citizen Award, including a $1,000 scholarship.
“When I first heard I got the award, I was overwhelmed with emotions,” Baylee said. “I was very excited and extremely honored that I received it.”
The other award nominees—Nichole Schnurbusch and Angelica Sariemento—also received scholarships.
Outside of school, the award winner’s community volunteering includes the Rotary Club of Keizer, the Claggett Creek Watershed Council and City Dance Theatre.
Baylee encourages other students to give back when they can. “It is a ton of fun to do different projects and an even greater joy getting to look back at what you have been able to do.”
Her post-high school plans include a possible career in law enforcement.
On the stage with her as she received her award were father Matt, mother Jessica and brother Zachary.
Her father, Matt, said his daughter winning the award was “pretty awesome,” and poignant because Dennis Koho was a personal friend of his.