Vestavia Hills Living

2014

Official magazine published by the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce for the City of Vestavia Hills which details the quality of life, education, shopping and lifestyle of Vestavia Hills.

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"This marvelous event began in 1988 to recognize and to formally and publicly express appreciation to civic-minded citizens who volunteer time and talent to make a positive difference in our community," says Dr. Dennis Anderson, founder of Leadership Vestavia Hills. "Over the years, the city has recognized former mayors, neighborhood leaders, community activists, volunteers in schools and community non-profit organizations, workers who improve the lives of both children and adults, and advocates for social justice — people who have served Vestavia Hills unselfishly without any thought of recognition or praise." A C O L O R F U L H I S T O R Y At the suggestion of Mayor Reynolds, the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce started the Citizen of the Year event under the direction of Chamber President Pat Barr. The chairman for the first event was Lucy Baxley, who would later serve as Alabama's lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2007. In the beginning, local civic clubs and organizations were asked to nominate residents for the Citizen of the Year award, says Robin Morgan, who has served as a leader of the event and researched its history for this article. Nominees were asked to submit applications and information about their civic accomplishments, to be scored by three judges from outside Vestavia Hills and tabulated by a local accounting firm. On the night of the event, nominees and their families and friends would gather with other community leaders and residents and wait anxiously for the winner to be revealed. For many years, the program honored one or two Citizens of the Year. In 2000, as the City of Vestavia Hills celebrated its 50th anniversary, the event honored all Vestavia Hills residents who had been living in Vestavia Hills in 1950. During this century, the Citizen of the Year program has undergone substantial changes. In 2002, the event was recalibrated under the leadership of Sandra Cleveland as President of Leadership Vestavia Hills to present awards in two categories: a Distinguished Citizen Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award. The Distinguished Citizen "goes to somebody who has made some major contributions to charity or science, extraordinary accomplishments that are bigger than Vestavia Hills, whether regional, statewide, national or international," Morgan says. "The Lifetime Achievement Award is for someone who has given years and years to the benefit of Vestavia Hills." In 2005, Leadership Vestavia Hills decided to do away with the competitive aspect of the awards. Rather than involving nominees and judges and announcing one winner on the night 3rd graders at West create this wall collage for Becky Patton of the event, "we decided that the board would choose the honorees in advance," says Morgan, who was Leadership Vestavia Hills president at the time. "The board determines the recipients and the event is publicized to recognize the honorees. Before, all these people and their families and friends came, and only one of them was tapped as "Citizen of the Year" but all of the candidates were deserving. Now, you don't have the same kind of situation. You get a feel-good crowd there to celebrate the work and accomplishments of the honorees. We've had capacity crowds for this for years." After 12 years of producing the Citizen of the Year event, Chamber of Commerce leaders partnered with Leadership Vestavia Hills to jointly produce the event in 2001. "The Chamber was doing tons of events already, and there had been discussion about Leadership Vestavia Hills taking over this event to recognize and acknowledge leaders, therefore, Citizen of the Year seemed to be a good fit for Leadership," Morgan says. Since 2002, Leadership Vestavia Hills "has continued this long tradition of holding up the best among us to be recognized and thanked for making our neighborhood, our city, and Birmingham a better place to live," Anderson says. A L A S T I N G T R A D I T I O N The Citizen of the Year awards and event have become an important annual tradition for the people of Vestavia Hills. "This is an important tradition because it celebrates volunteerism and extraordinary accomplishment within Vestavia Hills," Morgan says. "Vestavia Hills is the unusual community that sets goals for creating a better quality of life and has the energy and confidence to accomplish those goals. There is a 'we can make it happen' attitude in Vestavia Hills. Our Citizen of the Year celebrations are a way of sharing the often incredible accomplishments of the people and organizations or families of this community." In addition to creating public awareness of recipients' accomplishments, the Citizen of the Year event also raises funds for college scholarships that are awarded to deserving students who have participated in the Youth Leadership Vestavia Hills program at the Vestavia Hills High School. A F E W O F O U R O U T S T A N D I N G R E C I P I E N T S A wide range of notable Vestavia Hills residents have been honored at the Citizen of the Year events over the years. Here are a few examples of some of the outstanding recipients. 2 0 1 4 v e s tav i a h i l l s l i v i n g 25

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