Looking to the future with Florence’s First, Future First Citizens

Winners will be named during Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s Siuslaw Awards on Jan. 23

Jan. 12, 2019 — The Siuslaw Awards are fast approaching, which means the nominees for the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s 11th annual prestigious business awards are preparing for a night honoring their service to the community. It also means that six area residents are waiting until the Jan. 23 ceremony to find out if they are the 2018 First Citizen and Future First Citizen. For First Citizen, the two nominees are Debra “Dee” Osborne and Harlen Springer. The nominees for Future First Citizen are Audrey Lowder, Robert Mans, Samantha Scheer and Naomi Shoji.

“The chamber puts on a great night with the Siuslaw Awards. It’s a lot of fun,” said Siuslaw High School Counselor Steve Moser. “People really get into it, especially when they are announcing the winners. You can tell it’s a huge deal to those people and organizations who are nominated. They take a lot of pride in receiving those awards.”

Moser is an active part of the nomination process for the Future First Citizen, traditionally a Siuslaw High School senior who has exhibited excellent leadership and community service both within the school system and among the greater community.

This year, in working with the chamber, the nomination process made the first fledgling steps in an effort to include Mapleton High School and area home-schooled students in the Future First Citizen category.

Chamber President Russ Pierson said, “We’re the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce and we have chamber members throughout the region, 350 members or so. We reached out since we want to expand beyond just Siuslaw High School.”

While the awards committee did not ultimately receive applicants from those groups this year, it is ready to work with the next batch of students in helping them get recognized.

“This will be the last year we do it this particular way, and we have some good thoughts moving forward,” Pierson said.

Currently, Moser and other district staff and teachers nominate students they have gotten to know through academics, athletics and other activities. Moser noted the smaller staff at Mapleton may be unable to shoulder the additional workload of working with students.

In addition, GPA plays a small role, which can pose a problem for homeschoolers, who do not always have a GPA.

A new method of nomination will need to happen to allow for either self-nomination, interviews or outside nomination of students.

Some parts of making this happen are already in place as Siuslaw’s ASPIRE seeks to expand its career- and college-readiness program into more of the region. In addition, many scholarships are already offered to both school districts, with information available on a flashdrive sponsored by Western Lane Community Foundation. The school districts hope to continue to share resources when possible.

“So homeschoolers and Mapleton students, you’re on alert for next year,” Pierson said. “We want you!”

The methods of getting nominated are similar for both the First and Future First Citizen. Primarily selected by a group or organization, the candidate then gives details to help fill out the application. Gathered applications are then screened through the chamber awards committee, which then announces finalists.

“We’re talking about ways to open that up a little more, too,” Pierson said. “Typically, the nominees for First Citizen tend to come to us through organizations in the community — Rotary, Kiwanis, Soroptimists — who often will put a candidate forward, but it is possible for others to find their way to nomination as well. For both of these awards, people can be a bit shy about participating. They don’t want to be self-promoting, which is why we have these helper organizations, school districts or agencies in town help us get there.”

Moser said he has also nominated past First Citizen candidates as well.

“For the couple First Citizen nominations I’ve put in over the years, it is difficult as a lot of them are so modest the whole time. Typically, that person who fits the First Citizen mold doesn’t necessarily want to be known for the things they do. Obviously they deserve the recognition, but if it was up to them, they themselves wouldn’t necessarily (want to be recognized). They’re just glad that something good is happening,” he said.

The students Moser has worked with in turning in the first step of the application are often thrilled, even if they do not make it to the final stage.

“Any of the students I talked to about nominating were happy with the nomination and the chance to be selected,” he said. “They’re all just really happy for each other, too, which speaks to the character of the type of student who gets nominated.”

Pierson added, “From the chamber perspective, we want to emphasize that any of the nominees that are the finalists at the Siuslaw Awards are worthy and deserving. These are all winners. Obviously only one person or business is going to win the award at the end of the night, but all of them are invaluable members of our community who have been and are doing great things.”


First Citizen Nominees

Dee Osborne

The Florence Rotary Club nominated Osborne for her more than 35-year record serving the Florence community. She is the branch manager for Banner Bank, previously Siuslaw Bank, which won the 2017 Community Caring Award at last year’s Siuslaw Awards.

“For over 35 years, Dee has been a leader, collaborator, supporter and part of Florence and the surrounding community,” wrote Rotarian Lisa Walter Sedlacek in the nomination form. “Her strong family ethic in blue collar trades in our coastal town helped her understand the importance of jobs, strong local economies and families in having a strong community.”

Osborne has served on the boards of Florence Rotary Club, United Way of Lane County, Western Lane Community Foundation, Oregon Coast Military Museum and Florence Homebuilders Association, and been active on city and chamber committees and with Florence Area Coordinating Council, Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County, Soroptimist International of Florence, Peace Harbor Medical Center Foundation, American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, Siuslaw Outreach Services and more. She is also a founding member of the new Rods ‘N Rhodies Inc.

“When asked why she does so much for her community, Dee’s response is about family, … how she was raised to be part of our town, to give back and help make Florence a better place to live each and every day,” Walter Sedlacek continued. “Through Dee’s active leadership, financial education, hands-on participation and willingness to help with many diverse groups over the years, Florence has more dynamic services, better housing and a stronger sense of community.”


Harlen Springer

The City of Florence Public Art Committee and local business owner Jo Beaudreau nominated Springer for his dedication to local art and downtown revitalization.

Think of the area’s thriving art scene, and the name Harlen Springer often comes to mind. A spokesman for several art and gallery groups, he often talks about the importance of public art and the power of the “Wow factor.”

“He is an exemplary citizen who is a natural leader and encourages the participation of his fellow citizens,” Beaudreau wrote in the nomination.

Besides serving on the art committee, Springer is active with the Downtown Revitalization Team and Florence Regional Arts Alliance. He also supports FlorenceFest: Jazz, Art and Wine and its juried art show.

“Through Harlen’s dedication to Florence and the Siuslaw region, he has been able to raise cultural awareness, add to the beautification of our area and help boost economic vitality by providing people and artists of all backgrounds an opportunity to express their agency and citizenship,” Beaudreau continued.

She also added that Springer is a visionary who helps others catch onto a vision and create their own; creatively builds teams; and “helps provide the people around him with knowledge, compassion, ideas and the tools to continue working for the better.”


First Citizen Nominees

Audrey Lowder

Audrey is actively involved in Leadership, Interact and Key clubs, as well as the National Honors Society, varsity softball and the Siuslaw symphonic, jazz and pep bands. She volunteers with Soroptimists, Food Backpacks for Kids, Oregon Coast Humane Society and the Oregon Coast Chamber Orchestra. She also writes the monthly Artist of the Month article in Siuslaw News’ School Zone. She also works part time to help save for college tuition.

“Audrey is an exemplary student in every way possible. From school staff to her peers in classes, she is a shining example of when ‘good enough’ is never enough. Always looking to do more, Audrey looks to maximize every aspect and resource available at Siuslaw,” Moser wrote in her application.

After high school, Audrey hopes to attend Oregon State University and study bio-med and organic chemistry.


Robert Mans

Robert is the editor of the yearbook and is actively involved in National Honors Society, Interact Club KCST’s Viking Hour and varsity cross country and track. He volunteers with the Florence Rotary Club and helped Oregon Coast Military Museum with its Rhody Parade float.

“Robert is the type of student whom you’d be lucky to have once in your career,” Moser wrote in his application. “Intelligent, compassionate, respectful and dedicated to achieving his goals, Robert is the total student package. … He continually impresses me — and everyone — with his thoughtfulness and insight, not to mention his grades and his character.”

After high school, Robert plans to study medical sciences at one of the two-plus schools where he was accepted, planning to work one days a physician’s assistant before getting his doctorate.


Samantha Scheer

Sam is active in Interact Club, National Honors Society and Kindness Club. She volunteers at Oregon Coast Humane Society and with the Soroptimists, as well as beach cleanups and by recycling aluminum cans for elderly community members. She is a shift manager at River Roasters in Historic Old Town, where she has worked since 2015.

“There is no way around it — Sam is destined for greatness,” Moser wrote in her application. “It’s no surprise that Samantha has been able to achieve high standards at school. … She has an incredible work ethic, doing all she can to meet and exceed the expectations of (her classes). She is an incredible person, student and community member.”

After high school, Sam hopes to attend University of Oregon to pursue a degree in business management, with hopes to own her own business one day.


Naomi Shoji

Naomi is a member of Interact, Key, and Health Occupations Students of America clubs, as well as National Honors Society. Through HOSA, she interns at Peace Harbor. She also volunteers with Coffee Club, tutors through AVID, supports Alzheimer’s patients, works with Florence Community PTA and is active in her church and community. She also runs varsity cross country

According to Moser, “Always eager to learn new things, Naomi has a tremendous depth of knowledge and is involved in many different areas of the school and community. … It’s obvious Naomi is no stranger to hard work. She has done an incredible job of diversifying her courses to ensure a well-rounded education.”

After high school, Naomi plans to pursue a career in the medical field, drawing on her experiences with PeaceHealth as she narrows down her field.


“I love doing these nominations,” Moser said. “Especially for the Siuslaw Awards and at our scholarship awards night, you get to see all the hard work, all the time, all the energy students put into these projects they are working on and their grades — just being really positive influences in the community. Then they get to go off into the next step and continue their education. The Florence First Citizen process is just another outlet that helps me help them achieve their next step.”

Pierson agreed.

 “It’s fun for me in my role at the chamber and as dean of Lane Community College in Florence that I get the chance to meet so many of these people along the way and realize what fantastic people they are. It’s fun to be able to honor them in this way. Every one of the people who even applied is already a winner. They are great people who are doing great stuff.”

The 11th annual Siuslaw Awards will be presented on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St., from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Admission is $35 per person and tables of eight are available for $280. Tickets are available at the Chamber Visitor’s Center, 290 Highway 101 in Florence, by calling 541-997-3128 or by visiting florencechamber.com/events.


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