HOLMES BEACH – Mayor Judy Titsworth stepped up Jan. 14 to hand out some very special city awards to members of the community.
First up, she presented the 2019 Employee of the Year award to Code Compliance Officer James Thomas. She said the award is to recognize outstanding work and someone who goes above and beyond in their role.
“He leads by example and with respect for all and is a valued asset to our city,” she said of Thomas when presenting the award.
The next awards handed out were Community Partnership awards presented to Tom Sanger of Sanger Pools, Mary Catherine and Mark Meloncon of Diamond Turf and the Rex Hagen Foundation.
Titsworth recognized Sanger for his contributions to the new skate park, including supporting the skate bowl financially and helping to secure rental equipment, flat work, shotcrete, rebar lumber, fill and site work and labor for the skate bowl.
The Meloncons were recognized for their contributions to the new playground planned for the city field complex and to the building of the skate bowl.
“We are blessed to have them as residents in our city and it is my pleasure to honor them for this generous contribution,” Titsworth said of the Meloncons.
The Rex Hagen Foundation also received a Community Partnership award for its contributions financially to many amenities in the city including the city field comfort station, dog park improvements, irrigation, recreation equipment and this year, toward new playground equipment for the tot lot. Titsworth said the playground, once constructed, will have a vintage airplane theme to recognize the area’s previous use as an airstrip.
“I value the continued relationship that the city has with this admirable foundation and they not only deserve to be recognized once again but they also deserve our continued appreciation for the love that the Hagens had for our beautiful city,” Titsworth said.
The final award of the night, the Citizen of the Year award, was renamed the Louis Strickland Citizen of the Year award in honor of Strickland, a Holmes Beach resident who passed away in 2019.
“This award is actually the first of our city and it is named in honor of Louis Strickland, a very special community member who had the ability to touch many lives. Louis had a profound love for not only life but for our city and for everyone who resided and visited here,” Titsworth said. “I couldn’t think of a better way to honor this gentleman than to name our Citizen of the Year award in his honor. Each year when this award is given it will be in honor of this very special man whose kindness and love will be forever missed.”
Strickland’s daughter, Chris Berra, stepped up to the podium, presenting the award named after her father to the 2019 recipient, John Fernandez.
Fernandez was recognized not only for his contributions to the city’s building department but also his willingness to come out of retirement to serve as interim building official in 2015-17 and again in 2019 after the abrupt exit of previous Building Official Jim McGuinness.
“I truly don’t know what I would have done without him and am most grateful for allowing me to beg and plead and to take him out of retirement once again,” Titsworth said. “His continued commitment to the betterment of our city is not only commendable but notable and a true example of civic-mindedness and self-denying civic duty. I thank him for his service and wish him well in his retirement.”
“It is truly an honor,” Fernandez said as he accepted the award.
“It is amazing what one person at a checkout line can do for a city,” he said of Strickland, who used to work at the local Publix store. “He was a wonderful person and I am extremely honored to have this award, especially when it is tied to Louis Strickland. Thank you and God bless.”