Complete with a farm-to-table dinner and two standing ovations, the Westport Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner Meeting was highlighted by the presentation of the 2018 Citizen of the Year award to former Essex County Planner, longtime community volunteer and Westport resident Bill Johnston.
With a crowd of more than 50 people, the annual dinner/meeting, held at the Heritage House on November 14, featured local beer from Ledge Hill Brewing Co. and a farm-to-table dinner catered by Hub on the Hill. Always a highlight of the annual event, the Citizen of the Year award was presented by committee members with a special address by longtime friend Sue Reaser, who summarized Johnston’s contributions to Westport and the entire region.
“As many of us know, Bill was the Essex County Planner/Planning Director for nearly 30 years. In addition to his experiences as a planner, Bill taught in New York City public schools and was a Peace Corp volunteer in Tanzania,” said Reaser.
“Closer to home, he has served on the board of a long list of nonprofit organizations—and helped found several, including Adirondack Architectural Heritage, Ballard Park Foundation, the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County, Lakes to Locks Passage, the Boquet River Association, Adirondack Harvest, the Essex County Arts Council, the Adirondack Community Housing Trust, the Westport Planning Board and the Westport Library,” Reaser continued.
Johnston, who was surprised by the announcement, spoke briefly. “I’m honored and humbled,” he said.
The list of projects and initiatives to Johnston’s credit was impossible to cover in one night’s presentation, but Reaser highlighted some directly related to Westport, including the Floral Hall Revitalization at the Essex County Fairgrounds, the Westport Walking Tour, and the preservation of the green space in Westport at Ballard Park, including the design for the Ballard Park Pavilion, skating rink, and gardens. Most recently, Johnston’s expertise and persistence led to the successful renovation of the Westport Town Hall.
In addition to the award, Westport Chamber of Commerce board president Deirdre Forcier led the meeting which included the election of two new Chamber board members, Laurie Kelly and Catherine Quaglietta, and thanked outgoing board members Jane Vance, Janice Hainer and Medara Sherman. For more information about the Westport Chamber of Commerce, visit www.westportny.com.