By DAVID GREEN
Fayette’s Citizen of the Year choice followed some familiar territory this year while at the same time veering off into a new direction.
Many people employed by the school district have been honored as Citizen of the Year since the program began in 1968, but this is the first year the honor was presented to a citizen who doesn’t live in Fayette.
Fayette Local Schools superintendent Russell Griggs was honored Thursday at a Fayette Area Chamber of Commerce dinner at the high school.
Chamber president Trevor Hibbard reviewed Griggs’ career in education—now with superintendent experience in five school districts—and he counted down his top-10 list of reasons for honoring Griggs.
10. Forward thinker. 9. Leadership skills. 8. Reasonable. 7. Personality. 6. Intelligence. 5. Involved. 4. Budgeting experience. 3. The wind turbine. 2. Thoughtfulness. 1. He’s all we could afford.
Chamber member Tom Spiess spoke about the process of choosing a Citizen of the Year and noted that some cynics think the net cast for candidates is too small.
“Most of us, when made aware of who has been recognized as Citizen of the Year, have one of those epiphany moments,” Spiess said. “The lights go on and we say, ‘Oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense.’”
Spiess took Hibbard’s suggestion to focus on the connection between the school and community and he gave a brief history of education in the area. The late 1960s, for example, was the era of consolidation when the Lyons Lions, Fulton Raiders, Chesterfield Comets and the Metamora Tigers all became the Evergreen Vikings. That resulted in the loss of four old rivals for Fayette through the creation of one much larger school.
Spiess named former Citizens of the Year who were connected with the school, including superintendent Gaylord Parsons and his wife Joyce, bus driver Dick Whaley, bus mechanic Charlie Climo, superintendent Joe Long, custodian and fire chief Tom Franks, study hall monitor Ruth Hutchison, school board member Robert Nyce, elementary school principal John Winzeler, teacher Debbie Hatcliff and her husband Winston. Each of them was also very much involved in community events.
“And then there’s Russ,” Spiess said. “Well, he is different. He doesn’t live in the community, but he has proven to be a real advocate for the school and the community that supports it.”
The school’s wind turbine is a testament to Griggs, he said, and his ”tenacious support” of the project is impressive.
“Russ, you join a group of people who are loyal to this place, its history and traditions,” Spiess said.
Griggs thanked those in the audience for attending the dinner and he congratulated the former recipients of the award.
“Fayette is a wonderful community and a wonderful school district,” Griggs said. “That’s why I appreciate my association with the district.”
Griggs said that his work with Fayette is marked by a very supportive board of education, a wonderful staff, and students who have rated excellent the last three out of four years.
“There is a lot to be thankful for here in Fayette,” he concluded.
– Karen King contributed to this report