City Councilor Roland Herrera, center, poses with Ramiro "RJ" Navarro during his award presentation at a City Council meeting, June 21.

Local activist and Democratic nominee for state legislature Ramiro Navarro led a group of Keizer residents and local volunteers in honoring City Councilor Roland Herrera in a surprise ceremony at the City Council meeting June 21.

Mayor Cathy Clark and the other city councilors corroborated in keeping the secret from Herrera, who was visibly moved by the award and the words offered by the attendees.

“Keizerites come in many different forms and we have made progress. So many different Keizerites can feel welcomed in the community where they live,” read the text of the award. 

“At the heart of that progress is passion, and the passion that has shined the brightest these last few years is that of Councilor Roland Herrera, whose unwavering support for the LGBTQ community – and others who often feel unheard – is a beacon of hope.  

"His passion will be missed on the council, but we didn’t want to miss saying thank you.”

Herrera responded with gratitude while also expressing some frustration over the difficulties he had faced.

“I’ve been accused of dividing the city,” said Herrera, who was humbled by the award, but said he was simply doing what he thought was right.

“You know I’ve been called a race-baiter for bringing up equity and inclusion, but the people that really know me know I love Keizer,” he told Ramiro’s group. “I appreciate what you’re doing but this is just what we do in Keizer.”

He said he had been passionate about diversity and inclusion since before his brother died of AIDS, and that he was only one of many people who do this type of work every day.

“There’s a lot of folks who do that,” he said. “I just happen to be on a platform where people can hear me and get mad at me.”

After accepting the award, Herrera jokingly said he would find out who was at the bottom of it.

“It was definitely an effort of the heart,” Clark said to Herrera. “When they contacted us about doing this without letting you know, that was definitely us.”

Navarro, who helped coordinate the award and informed Keizertimes about his plan last month, said Herrera's contributions to the community are legendary and many people consider him a mentor.