Looking forward to First Citizen

Published 8:18 pm Saturday, February 23, 2013

One of the Suffolk events I have come to eagerly anticipate each year since I’ve returned to the city as editor of the Suffolk News-Herald is the annual Suffolk First Citizen award ceremony.

As a member of the North Suffolk Rotary Club, I have been directly involved in First Citizen since my club joined the downtown Suffolk Rotary Club in sponsoring the gala affair a couple of years ago. Before the two clubs joined efforts, I was able to attend as a spectator for a couple of years.

The First Citizen award, given each year since 1956, except for a hiatus from 1999-2002, goes to an outstanding individual who best exemplifies the spirit of citizenship and who has shown significant leadership through his or her time, talents and efforts in order to make Suffolk a better place to live, according to club leaders.

Email newsletter signup

The award originally was given by the Cosmopolitan Club, but it went into a brief hiatus when that club disbanded. The Suffolk Rotary Club picked up the torch in 2003 and has been leading the effort to recognize some of Suffolk’s finest citizens ever since.

I’ve had the honor of knowing some of the award winners for much of my life. I knew some of the others only through their outstanding reputations within Suffolk. Still others I’ve had the unparalleled opportunity to get to know much better in my work on the Rotary committee in charge of producing the video presentation used to announce them on the night they were honored.

Honorees through the years have included a beloved Virginia governor, statesmen from both the House of Delegates and state Senate, mayors and city councilmen, arts and education advocates, businessmen, philanthropists, activists and historians. A characteristic they all shared, however, was a single-minded drive to improve the lives of people around the city they loved.

Nominations for the 2013 Suffolk First Citizen award are closed now, and a group of Rotary members is working to choose a recipient from among the names that were submitted. Many people around the city are eagerly awaiting their announcement, and we’ll cover it here in the Suffolk News-Herald when it comes.

Meanwhile, though, it’s not too early make your plans to attend the celebration, which will be held at 6 p.m. April 18 at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Tickets are $30. Contact a Rotary Club member or click here for more information. All profits from the event go toward the clubs’ charitable outreach programs.