From the circus to First Citizen

Published 11:51 am Saturday, April 5, 2014

For tax accountants, the turn of the calendar to April means two weeks of working pretty much round the clock to finish filing clients’ taxes. For baseball fans, the first few days of April are, perhaps, the last time their team will be in the hunt for a shot at the playoffs. (Better enjoy that one-game winning streak while you can, Mets fans!)

For me, at least for the past few years, the beginning of April marks an opportunity for me to pretend I’m a movie producer.

As a member of the Rotary Club of Suffolk committee charged with helping to put together the video tribute for Suffolk’s First Citizen, my job for the past four years or so has been to wrangle the various people who will speak on camera about the year’s honoree, to rustle up photos for the film and to rein in the production so it fits within the limited time allotted during the ceremony.


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It sounds a bit like a rodeo, but it feels more like a circus. And I’m definitely the clown. I think of fellow Rotarian Ashley Greene, who has kept me and the process on track each of those years, as the ringmaster. You don’t want to let the clown car get out of control when Ashley’s in the ring.

Ashley and I spent a significant part of the week with Bobby Harrell, this year’s First Citizen honoree. At his home, we were treated to a “ham log” that’s far more delectable than its name might imply, and we delighted in hearing Harrell and his gracious wife Monette talk in front of the camera about how they met.

At the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, we heard from some of Bobby Harrell’s friends, as they congratulated him for the honor. And at the Salvation Army’s new Robert W. Harrell Jr. Physical Health and Education Building, we saw children playing basketball and eating pizza in a facility that would not exist without his hard work.

It has been a bit of a circus, and like any good circus, there have been plenty of laughs, a few times when there were too many things happening at once and a moment or two when we wondered whether the lion might suddenly decide it was time for lunch.

The end result, though, should be well worth the effort, and I can promise the First Citizen ceremony, where the film will be debuted, will be a great night in Suffolk.

There’s still time to make your reservation for the event, which is set for 6 p.m. April 17 at the SCCA. Admission is $35 per person. You can register, by Monday, at or in person at the SCCA or at Hampton Roads Financial, 5859 Harbour View Blvd., Suite 201.

The award is given by the Suffolk and North Suffolk Rotary clubs, and proceeds go to support Suffolk charitable organizations.

If you attend, be sure and look for me. I’ll be the clown breathing a sigh of relief when the video presentation is over.