Emerging from a robust number of nominees and a record number of total votes, Patty Berger was honored Monday, Dec. 7, as New Richmond’s 2015 Citizen of the Year.
The announcement was made at a special Business After Five event held at Barley John’s in New Richmond.
In all, there were 13 candidates nominated for this year’s award.
Berger received 23 percent of the overall vote.
In his announcement of the winner of the Citizen of the Year Award, New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rob Kreibich said, “Our 2015 Citizen of the Year recipient is a familiar face to parents and students who attend New Richmond High School. She is described this way: Always has a smile on her face, a helpful attitude, and a positive outlook.
“For 15 years she has been the face of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Active in the Star Prairie Queens Committee, our recipient also finds time to be active at St. Mary’s School and Immaculate Conception Church … In short, she has made New Richmond a great place to live.”
In accepting the award, Berger said, “First of all, I didn’t even know I was nominated. Somebody came in to school and told me … I was stunned. Then I read the rest of the names on the list and I’m like, ‘are you kidding me?’ It’s an honor to be nominated with all the people on this list because … you all are amazing people and I could not be prouder to be a part of your list. It’s amazing. The original nomination … and my work with Relay for Life - I would be a coward and a poor winner if I did not say that relay does not happen just by me. We have a committee … Betty Swanson has been involved in Relay for Life for 23 years; this is my 21st year; we’ve raised over $2.3 million … due to monies from you. Our relay does not have tons of corporate sponsorship … our money comes from people like Wanda Viellieux who goes door-to-door and says, ‘I’m walking in the Relay for Life, could you sponsor me …?’ And people say yes. So, without all of you, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight … I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and just so thankful. Thank you very much.”
For being selected as Citizen of the Year, Berger received a glass trophy and a Barley Beer Society Membership for a year from Barley John’s.
After being presented with the beer society membership, Berger added to her message and commented on the fact that she says “peace” as a valediction rather than the usual term of “goodbye.”
Here is what she said: “I’m so glad you added the part about peace. Right now we’re living in a world that kinda sucks … but this place right here tonight with all the nominees and all the people who are here, it starts with all of us. We are just a drop in the pond, but oh, join me in stop saying goodbye … just say peace … a really good guy said it first - I can’t take credit. I have sandals on tonight because we have to walk with Jesus …”
And with that, Berger had the entire crowd singing “Let there be Peace on Earth.”
In nominating Berger for the award, the description of her role within the community was probably an important piece for those who determined their vote.
Here is how Berger was described for those casting votes:
“Patty has been a tireless advocate for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life for 15+ years. As a lead committee chair, she is the face of Relay. She is the one who knows all of the ropes, the one who motivates everyone from committee members, team captains, team members, survivors and caregivers. She has also been very involved in events for the Star Prairie Queens Committee, St. Mary's School & Immaculate Conception Church and many other community and charitable events in both Star Prairie AND New Richmond. She always has a smile on her face, a helpful attitude and a positive outlook. Everyone wants to around her because she has a spirit and enthusiasm that is contagious! I hope that you will consider Patty for the Citizen of the Year. Just ask around - I know you will get MANY who will second this suggestion!”
There were more than double the nominations of last year that were submitted for consideration when calls for nominations went out. In all, there were just short of 650 votes cast over the course of six days. The chamber award is given each year to a member of the New Richmond community who has made a positive and noteworthy contribution to the community through his or her own efforts and not as part of his or her job.
“This prestigious award has a rich history in New Richmond and we have a strong list of nominees for the 2015 Citizen of the Year,” Rob Kreibich, executive director at the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “For at least two decades, New Richmond has honored one of its own residents who lives or works here for making this community a great place to live and for advancing the business climate. Whoever receives the award will join a select group of people recognized for making a significant contribution to the New Richmond area. The challenge for voters will be to select one person from a field of highly deserving people,” Kreibich added.
All of the nominees for the 2015 award are as follows:
Pastor Kevin Morris
Randy and Debbie Calleja
In addition to being honored at the ceremony Monday night, Berger will also be the chamber’s honored guest at its annual meeting and gala in January and serve as the grand marshal of the 2015 Fun Fest Parade in July.
Citizen of the Year past recipients
1992: Bob Heebink
1993: Curt Anderson
1994: Irv & Mary Sather
1995: Billy Smith
1996: Bon & Alice Michaels
1997: Bob Krueger
1998: Jerry Frey
1999: John Soderberg
2000: Barbara Polfus
2001: Helen Demulling
2002: Jim Counter
2003: Bob Peterson
2004: Bob Peirson
2005: Bill Buell
2006: Bill Derrick
2007: Tim O’Brien
2008: Dennis Horner
2009: David Schnitzler
2010: Paul Mayer
2011: Jim Zajkowski
2012: Vernon Conrad
2013: Stuart Nelson
2014: Dr. Neal Melby