SUNNYSIDE MAN OF THE YEAR: Don Day
The city’s signature event was in danger of not happening.
That changed when city staff under the leadership of City Manager Don Day organized and promoted the Lighted Farm Implement Parade last month.
The Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce closed in June due to back tax issues and the loss of its tax-exempt status. It had organized the parade in the past.
Day is The Daily Sun’s man of the year for stepping up and taking on a leadership role to make sure the 2016 implement parade happened.
He said he didn’t want to see the parade fall through the cracks in the chamber’s absence.
And he and city staff are to be commended not just for “making it happen,” but improving and growing the lighted implement parade.
“It would not have happened without the city staff stepping forward,” Mayor Jim Restucci said. “They came together and knocked it out of the park.”
He praised Day for taking the lead.
“He did an outstanding job. Council is pleased with his performance,” Restucci said. “He’s got the staff working together as a team, and that hadn’t happened in a long time.”
Residents are noticing, he said.
“Their work for the Lighted Farm Implement Parade showed this community how much the staff appreciates us,” Restucci said. “It was a wonderful team-building effort fostered and overseen by the city manager.”
Restucci said it was the best Lighted Farm Implement Parade in several years.
“We received laudable comments from people all over the city,” he said. “Kudos need to go to the city manager and staff.”
Day also directed an effort that brought new enhancements to the parade, such as a first-ever emergency operations center organized by staff.
“We want to ensure that we have eyes and ears on the ground if something goes wrong,” Day said at the time.
Nothing did go wrong and the parade went off without a hitch, under his leadership.
Day is also the man of the year because of what he didn’t do.
He kept to his word and followed through in not attempting to have city staff organize additional festivals.
Day said it would be a one-time effort, and it was.
Instead, the city went through a process of hiring a contractor to pull together Sunnyside’s other signature event, the Cinco de Mayo Festival in May.
However, it’s good to know the city has a back-up plan with Day and company.
That plan met with approval from Teri Alvarez-Ziegler, a leader of the Miss Sunnyside Court with extensive parade experience.
“I thought it went very well,” she said of Day and city staff’s work on the Lighted Farm Implement Parade.
“They maintained the tradition of that parade…they did a better job of keeping the entries close to each other.”
She admitted to being concerned at times.
“Honestly, I’ll admit I was skeptical when they changed the whole route to start over at YV Tech,” she said. “But gotta tell you, I think it’s been fabulous.”
WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Cathy Kelley
In a time when momentum is pushing for increased legalization and tolerance of marijuana, one woman is at the forefront of a local movement to warn of its hazards.
Cathy Kelley is executive director of Sunnyside United-Unidos. She is The Daily Sun’s Woman of the Year for 2016 for her and the non-profit’s efforts to keep up the pressure in presenting the other side of marijuana’s impact in society.
It’s not easy going against the sweep of history favoring legalized marijuana, but Kelley and her non-profit’s volunteers are to be commended for being a consistent voice of moderation.
“There is no agenda except for how do we keep kids off drugs and alcohol and out of gangs to give them the best start in life,” former Sunnyside United-Unidos volunteer Rebecca Lambert posted on the group’s social media site.
“I served on the communications committee for Unidos for a year, one of the best experiences I have had with an organization,” she said.
Lambert moved to Seattle, but still remembers Kelley and Sunnyside United-Unidos as a “… great group of people and a strong community.”
Sunnyside United-Unidos took the lead last year in raising concern and opposition when a vape shop opened just a block from an elementary school.
To be sure, Kelley and her group’s efforts extend far beyond marijuana.
In 2016, they were instrumental in getting a drug drop box installed in the Law and Justice Center, 401 Homer St.
The box is a safe, anonymous option for disposing of old or unwanted prescription medications.
Last year the Kelley and Sunnyside United-Unidos also showed a willingness to try new strategies.
In 2016, they launched a series of neighborhood events offering games, food and conversations to find out what individual areas of town need.
The non-profit also hosted a leaders luncheon last year, which included a visit from Congressman Dan Newhouse.
And next week, Kelley will oversee yet another series of “Strong Families” classes at Sunnyside United-Unidos.
The course is 5:30-8:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays from Jan. 9 through Feb. 28. Classes meet in Pioneer Elementary School, 2102 E. Lincoln Ave.
The classes focus on family relationships, covering topics that range from anger management to communication and problem solving.
And families will also receive assistance in dealing with concerns about drugs and alcohol.
Kelley has long pointed to research showing the children of parents who attend Strong Families program have lower rates of substance use, gang violence, pregnancy and perform better at school.
Sunnyside United-Unidos is also continuing its educational efforts about marijuana in 2017.
From 6:30-8 p.m. on Jan. 26 it will host a national speaker, Officer Jermaine Galloway, on new drug trends involving marijuana and vaping. The program is for adults only and will be in the Sunnyside High School auditorium, 1801 E. Edison Ave.