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North Mason Chamber honors Man, Woman of the Year

Belfair Herald of Belfair, Washington

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The North Mason Chamber of Commerce plans to honor community leaders who have a passion for bettering the area at the chamber's annual installation gala on Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton.

For the first time this year, and from henceforth, the chamber's annual Citizen of the Year award will go to two people —a Man of the Year and a Woman of the Year.

For 2011, those honorees are Randy Neatherlin, a Port of Al-lyn commissioner, and Monna Haugen, immediate past-president of the North Mason Coalition of Churches & Community.

"We received nearly a dozen nominations for Citizen of the Year, which is an increase over the prior year by 50 percent, a significant change," said North Mason Chamber CEO Mark Costa. "With so much positive interaction occurring between the chamber and the community, it's not really surprising that at the end of the day we had some difficult decisions to make."

An executive committee reviewed nominations that chamber members had submitted and Neatherlin was selected for his exemplary contributions to this community, Costa said.

"Cream always rises to the top and Randy is just an amazing guy," Costa said. "He has such a passion for the community and he works selflessly. The contributions he's made are tremendous." In the span of his career, Neat-herlin has served on multiple community boards and advocated for many issues concerning the North Mason area, particularly encouraging economic development.

"I was more than surprised," Neatherlin said of winning this award. "It feels very weird to me. I'm better at getting attacked. I serve next to so many people and I'm not above any of them. I say to myself that these other people should have it. It never crossed my mind that it would be me."

His fellow Citizen of the Year,

Monna Haugen has spent much of the last three years spearheading the Food for Kids backpack program in North Mason, which provides children in need with food to last them over the weekend and holiday breaks. "She has worked to alleviate hunger in our community for many, many years and just works diligently," Costa said. "For Citizen of the Year, what we really look for is people that have made a contribution to the community, and we look at it over time as a body of work not necessarily a single action. They'll both be enriching the North Mason area for a long time."

Haugen said she felt that by being chosen, the chamber chose the community.

"It's the community, the six churches, our service clubs, businesses, garden clubs and other organizations that put on our free meals and all the volunteers that pack the backpacks," she said. "I feel so privileged to be in the middle of it. I think I've been more of a cheerleader. It's just kind of unbelievable."

Other awards will go to Box-light as Business of the Year, for being a leader on the international stage for its manufacturing, Rhonda Brown as Member of the Year, for stepping up to the plate and going "beyond expectations" in her new role as board chair, and Relay for Life of North Mason, which received the Chairman's Award, Costa said.

"The Chairman's Award is selected by the outgoing chair of the board, in this case Cassandra Hoffman," he said. "I think this award is very personal for Casey because her father passed away last year and relay has done quite a bit to help fight cancer."

The award winners will be honored at the chamber's gala, which will have live music this year, at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton.

The move from Mason County to Kitsap County raised some concerns, Costa said.

"I was worried about attendance, but we're looking to exceed last year's event," he said. "Last year we clearly exceeded the capacity of the room to the point where it was uncomfortable and it was unsafe. Our choice was to limit the people who could participate or find a more suitable location."

Copyright 2012 Belfair Herald, Belfair, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 19, 2012

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