It was an evening of cheers. It was an evening of tears. It was last Saturday evening as the Keizer Chamber Chamber of Commerce bestowed its annual First Citizen Award and other honors at a banquet at the Keizer Civic Center.

Though many in the public may not know what the Chamber of Commerce does on a daily basis, most people in Keizer are aware of the people it paid tribute to this year.

Keizer’s 2019 First Citizen is Hersch Sangster. Described as “the guy you want to know and be around,” Sangster’s long list of community achievement and involvement ran multiple pages. Many may know him by his advocacy of cycling, but his resume goes much deeper than that.

He was one of the founders of the Monster Cookie Century Bike Ride in 1977, the 100 meter ride from the Capitol into the valley and back each spring has become one of the premier biking events in the northwest. 

Besides riding he has been instrumental in establishing the bike repair stations found about the city. The stations allow cyclists to mend their bikes as needed. In a city becoming increasingly bi-pedal, those stations are a gift. Hersch has been involved with bike safety training and distribution of safety helmets for years. A former Keizer Rotarian, Hersch has served as boards as diverse as the Southeast Keizer Neighborhood Association, Salem-Keizer Transit District, McNary High School Band and Athletic Boosters Clubs. 

With a friendly demeanor and a ready smile, Hersch is a true Keizer doer who never says no. The very definition of a first citizen.

Dave Walery, a long-time resident and volunteer was named Merchant of the Year. He becomes the first former First Citizen to be so honored; he has also been a previous President’s Award recepient. Twice.

Known as Mr. Christmas for his volunteer work with holiday street lights as well as the annual Christmas tree at—where else?—Walery Plaza. Aside from Christmas, Dave could also be called Mr. Festival for his many years of volunteering to make KeizerFest (nee Keizer Iris Festival) operate smoothly (along with festival co-chair Scott White). That includes overseeing the placement and erection of the KeizerFEST tent, festival operations and the parade.

Walery’s Premium Pizza is a supporter and sponsor of many groups and activities in Keizer. In many ways, Dave Walery is the oil that keeps the Keizer community humming along.

The winners of the awards are not revealed until the night of the banquet. The previous year’s honoree builds up to naming the winner. This year’s winner of the Service to Education Award, Tammy Ready, was caught unawares as her name was called. Evidenced by the cheers of the audience, Ready was a popular winner.

A tireless advocate of kids and a community volunteer, Ready has been a integral part of McNary Athletic Boosters, McNary Youth Football, Keizer Network of Women’s Giving Basket program as well as with Liberty House and Family Building Blocks.

Kids, especially in Keizer, are better because Tammy Ready is always working on their behalf.

Each year the leader of the Chamber chooses a recepient of the President’s Award. This year Jeremy Turner was tabbed by Jonathan Thompson, the president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.

Turner is a member of Men of Action in Keizer (MAK) a Chamber-based group of men who jump into action when they see a need in the community. Plants need to be pruned to improved driver sight lines? MAK is there. The Chamber needs to move to a new office? MAK is there. Help is needed at KeizerFEST? MAK is there. Jeremy Turner was there every step of the way.

There were cheers of celebration and recognition. There were tears of humility and sentimentality. Overall it was a evening when the community gathers and celebrates those who make Keizer a better place for everyone.

Thank you Hersch, Dave, Tammy and Jeremy for your invovlement and being a model for others.

— LAZ