Pilot stories and photos

by Brian Bullock

The sun shined brightly Saturday on three of Brookings' most prolific volunteers and its top employee of the year. They were honored at the annual City Volunteer and Employee Picnic at Azalea Park.

Frances Johns Kern, Lorraine Williams and Mayor Bob Hagbom were all cited for their volunteer efforts. City Building Official LauraLee Gray was honored as the employee of the 2003-2004 fiscal year.

City employees, volunteers and their families gathered for a peaceful afternoon in the park that included a barbecue lunch, ice cream sundaes and games for the children.

Brookings police Officer Marvin Parker kept the kids busy with a series of games. The Brookings-Harbor High School Booster Club supplied the hamburgers and hot dogs. KURY Radio's Kevin Bane filled the warm summer air with music. Approximately 150 adults and children enjoyed the day.

It was probably fitting that Johns Kern began the day working at the registration table and finished it off by helping clean up. City Manager Leroy Blodgett needed several minutes just to list the groups with which Johns Kern is an active member.

They included the City Council, Parks and Recreation Commission, Economic Development Committee and its Downtown Development Subcommittee, Budget Committee, the Curry County Recycling Committee, Pelican Bay Prison Advisory Board and the city's Urban Renewal Agency Board of Directors.

That list didn't include social and civic organizations such as the Chetco Senior Center, Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Brookings Elks Lodge and Brookings Emblem Club which also count Johns Kern as a member.

andquot;On top of that, this volunteer is one of the nicest ladies around,andquot; Blodgett said.

The city also honored Hagbom for more than a decade of work on the Budget Committee, Planning Commission and City Council. He has decided not to run for re-election this year.

In a day of passing on accolades to others, Hagbom received a few of his own. Blodgett noted the 13 years of volunteer work the mayor has provided to the city and the strides the city has made under Hagbom's direction.

andquot;He's much more than our mayor. He is part of our community and part of our lives,andquot; Blodgett said. andquot;I'm going to miss working with him.andquot;

Hagbom said he isn't going anywhere; he will probably just not spend as much time at city hall as he has lately.

andquot;One of the things about this position, once you've done it a few years you mellow and that's probably a good thing,andquot; he said. andquot;It's been a pleasure serving as your mayor.andquot;

Hagbom said he was just one of many volunteers Brookings has as residents.

andquot;In the last fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, we had at least 230 people donate conservatively over 19,350 hours to 24 city-sponsored or related volunteer committees and projects,andquot; he said. andquot;At the rate of $10 per hour, this means you volunteers donated over $193,500 in time to our great city. Good job volunteers.andquot;Gray can attest to how much Brookings has grown over the past few years. As the city's building inspector, Gray works directly with builders and developers.

Public Works Supervisor John Cowan, a former Employee of the Year, introduced Gray as this year's winner.

andquot;This person works with the Public Works Department, sometimes, the Police Department, sometimes, Finance Department, sometimes, Community Development, sometimes. Well, you get the picture,andquot; he said.

Blodgett added: andquot;Selecting the employee of the year is really, really hard. Maybe we should just have them all stand up and give them awards.andquot;

One of the volunteers not on hand to celebrate a glorious day in the park was Lorraine Williams. Her absence was noted by Hagbom and felt by many.

andquot;I'm sure you are all aware that recently the city lost one of its finest volunteers, Lorraine Williams, who past away Aug. 16. Her memory will be with us each and every time we come into this park. A large part of what Azalea Park has become is from Lorraine's dedicated efforts to bring beauty into every aspect of life,andquot; Hagbom said.