2013 Sierra Madre Honors… Dinner Held at Alverno

Richard Mays, winner of George Maurer Lifetime Achievement Award

Posted 10/12/14 – The 2013 Sierra Madre Honors… Dinner and Awards was held on Thursday, September 12th at the Villa del Sol d’Oro on the Alverno campus.   Sierra Madre Honors… is the City’s opportunity to recognize and honor the true treasures of Sierra Madre, its volunteers, City Commissioners and employees. Sierra Madre Honors… recognizes all out-going City Commissioners, and awardees selected from nominations submitted to the Mayor’s Ad-Hoc Committee comprised of past recipients.

The outgoing Commissioners recognized for their service at the dinner were Bob Spears and John Vandevelde of the Planning Commission and Aliya Crochetiere of the Community Services Commission.

The evening kicked off with a performance by mezzo soprano and Mistress of Ceremonies Suzanna Guzman, joined by Madison Parks and Chris Hunter, a video of which is below.  Below the video is the script from the Dinner, which details the award winners and why they won, as presented by Ms. Guzman.  Below that, you’ll find our photo gallery from the evening.

The first award is for recognition of Public Service, otherwise known as the Employee of the Year Award.  This prestigious award is presented upon the recommendation of the City Manager to an extraordinary city employee who has represented remarkable customer and public service as well as dedication to the citizens of Sierra Madre over the course of the year.  This year we are fortunate to award two outstanding employees, Susan Clifton, Account Clerk, and Jose Reynoso, Water Superintendent.

Susan Clifton was born and raised in Sierra Madre and has dedicated her life to public service, following the great example of her parents Beverly & Paul Clifton. Before becoming a full-time City employee in 2007, Susan had previously spent her youth as a part-time Recreation Leader, Film Coordinator and Library page. Then directly after college from UC San Diego she spent time in the non-profit sector working for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, American Red Cross and American Cancer Society. In fact, it was there at ACS, that Susan worked with members of the Sierra Madre community to bring ACS’s “24 Hour Relay for Life” to town which raised over $100,000 in the early years.

In the 1990s, you could always see Susan volunteering in the community at all our favorite events like Huck Finn Day, Halloween Happenings and the Trail Race as she was serving two terms on the then Parks and Recreation Commission. She was part of the team that completed the City’s first ever Youth and Parks Master Plans. She has also been an active member of the Sierra Madre Civic Club for over twenty years and served as president twice, as well as being a founding member of the Spero Foundation. Susan is also very active at her church here in Sierra Madre – Church of the Ascension.

Susan was originally hired to assist the Sierra Madre seniors at the Hart Park House. During her tenure with the Seniors she assisted with trips, starting a wellness program, a Transportation Plan and the renovation of the Hart Park House. Susan always dives into her work with a cheery disposition ready to take on the next challenge while holding her roots to the community at the forefront.

And that did not change in 2012 when, as the result of budget necessities, the City was reorganized, and Susan left the Community Services Division to join Administrative Services. With that infectious smile and willingness to work and remarkable customer service skills, Susan began her journey to the front counter at City Hall. And today she still greets everyone at the counter as if they were a neighbor, ready to find that you the answer or the person that can help you.

With the recent water issues and the many changes that have occurred with the water billing, Susan has displayed patience and understanding time and time again when answering resident’s questions, clarifying how to read the water bills, always sending people away with smiles on their faces.

We are very fortunate to have Susan and her mother here tonight as they were originally scheduled to be in Hawaii.  We are pleased they were able to change flights and hotel reservations! Congratulations, Susan, on receiving Sierra Madre’s 2013 Employee of the Year Award.

Jose Reynoso started with the City in 2010. He has been the consummate professional throughout his tenure; unflappable in the face of adversity.  Only 4 months after Jose started here, with Deputy Director Cimino away on vacation, Jose was confronted with not one but two major water system leaks, including the one which closed East Sierra Madre Boulevard for several days.  Jose was able to calmly think on his feet and get the needed repairs done in such a manner that nobody went without water for more than a few hours.

Jose leads the water division as the Water Superintendent. Water customers are getting to know him through his City Council meeting appearances and through his role as the staff member to review appeals under the water conservation ordinance.  In a time when the Water Department is experiencing water supply problems due to the local drought, Jose Reynoso is making the system work through long hours and diligent supervision of staff and the water system itself.

Many of the City’s water customers understand that the water production and distribution system is highly automated. It might therefore be assumed that operating and monitoring the system is easy, and in times when groundwater is plentiful and all equipment is operational that is somewhat the case. However, when water levels in the City’s primary supply become as low as they are now, the system requires constant monitoring and adjustment. It requires a thorough knowledge of what happens system-wide when each and every adjustment is made.

Picture if you will the conductor of a sort of orchestra, directing the string section (reservoirs,) the brass section (booster pumps), and woodwinds (wells.) If the conductor doesn’t get it right, the symphony is going to be pretty awful. Likewise, if Jose and his staff do not get their operation of the system right (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) the water system is not going to serve the community well.  Jose has worked with his staff and developed them into a team of conductors, each of whom can and does run the system on a regular basis.

In his 2.5 years at Sierra Madre Jose has completed several regulatory items the California Department of Public Health has mandated the City to complete. These include an annual valve exercising program, monthly and annual main flushing program, and a fire hydrant maintenance program.  He has overseen several project and major construction jobs like the water main installation on East Sierra Madre Blvd., the rehabilitation of Wells 3 and 6, and the installation of the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District connection and pipeline.  He prepared the request for proposal and received bids for the Advanced Metering Infrastructure project.  If the project is approved he will be the man to oversee that whole project.  To list everything Jose does would take too much of our time this evening.  He is a very valued employee of the City of Sierra Madre and we are lucky to have him be our Water Superintendent and to lead us through the current water issues.

Jose is here tonight with his wife of 20 years, Lourdes Reynoso, and daughters, Alondra and Clarissa, as well as his parents, Jose and Margarita Reynoso.  Jose’s son, Isaac is away attending George Washington University, in Washington DC.

Next, the Police Chief’s Special Award is presented to Jesse Cazares.  Jesse Cazares was born in Texas and at the age of 3, he, his parents and siblings moved to California where he attended school.  He attended Los Angeles City College and received an Associate Degree in Administration of Justice with a minor in Phycology.  He then transferred to Cal State LA and volunteered for the Air Force Reserve stationed at March Air Force Base in Riverside.

While attending Cal-State he completed the California Highway Patrol Academy.  His assignments for the patrol included Altadena, East Los Angeles and Rancho Cucamonga.  As an officer for the patrol, he worked in the field for most of his career.

Jesse also worked for 4 ½ years as a Public Relations officer.  He was a training officer, a motorcycle officer, an EMT-1 and assigned to the President’s Protective Detail.  In 2009 he received a service retirement.  In the following 2 ½ years he travelled to 15 countries before assisting the City as a temporary, part time investigator, property / evidence officer.

While in Sierra Madre, Jesse has been working diligently to remove old property, organize and catalog years of old and new evidence, and identifying property to be returned to its rightful owner.  He has coordinated the destruction of firearms and narcotics to keep on top of the Department of Justice requirements. Today, the City’s Property & Evidence Room is organized, functional and meeting all legal requirements.

In addition to his property room responsibilities, Jess will occasionally be out in the community, showing off his skills as a motorcycle officer, as well as participating in community presentations and special events.

Jesse Cazares is being awarded the Police Chief’s Special Award for his outstanding devotion to duty.

The Wistaria Award recognizes a City/community partnership and is presented to a local business or organization whose major contributions to the City and community of Sierra Madre have demonstrated a partnership that assists in and provides services and programs, or enhances the general welfare of the Community as a whole. This year’s recipient is the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society.

The mission of the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society is to purposefully raise awareness of the rich history of Sierra Madre.  This year the Society has diligently worked to begin the upgrade process to make the City’s museums accessible & interesting to the Community as quality educational and community-based entities.  They have also actively engaged in partnerships with the Sierra Madre Garden Club, the Sierra Madre Public Library, and the City of Sierra Madre.  Some of their projects include:

Community Programs like:

  • Vintage Talking Machines & Phonographs,
  • California’s Second Gold Rush: The Rise of the Citrus Industry,
  • Holiday Party at the Historic Hart Park House,
  • A historic landmark home tour, and
  • Lizzie’s Chicken & Ravioli Dinner at Mount Wilson Trail Park.
  • Oral History Program – This past year, the focus of the committee was to work on gathering and cataloging the oral histories beginning in the mid-1990s, when they began being recorded in digitized format.  That process is nearing completion.

Lately their activities have consisted of:

  • Improvements at the museums, Lizzie’s Trail Inn & Richardson House,
  • Completion of the long awaited repair of Lizzie’s leaky roof,
  • Cleaning and organizing contents of Lizzie’s,
  • Cleaning and preparing Richardson House for digital storyboard installation,
  • Preparation for soft demo on back of Richardson House in preparation of restoration work, and
  • Planting a native plant drought tolerant Mt. Wilson Trail teaching garden

In partnership with the Sierra Madre Library, the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society will be unveiling the Sierra Madre Stories & Treasures, a new digital storyboard, at Richardson House on Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 11am (all are invited).

And the Historical Preservation Society is working to procure a one-armed bandit as was originally in Lizzie’s as well as update the electrical, and perhaps install air-conditioning.

The next award is presented annually to an individual or organization who took action to protect and maintain the safety of the community.  This year’s Public Safety Award goes to The Sierra Madre Emergency Communications Team.

I have heard them called, “The Unsung Heroes of Sierra Madre”.  The Sierra Madre Emergency Communication Team’s mission is to provide additional emergency communications for the City of Sierra Madre “when all else fails”.  Their unique ability to establish an ad hoc communications system quickly and without infrastructure is their forte.

The members own and maintain personal Ham Radios that are capable of city-wide communications from the EOC and point-to-point in the city.  The EOC has a cable to a Ham Radio antenna on the roof of City Hall.  The team work together with hand held radios, mobile radios and equipment capable of long distance communications.  Some are mounted to cars or motorhomes, some with emergency power.

During the windstorm in December of 2011, they provided road conditions to the Police between Sierra Madre and surrounding communities including access to the freeway.   During the Santa Anita Fire they were fire spotters at the end of the streets and later established a communications link between the YAC and the evacuation centers finding displaced person while at the same time had Hams on the street providing traffic information to the EOC.  When the Fire Command Post moved to Santa Fe Dam, they provided communication between the Dam, our EOC and the evacuation centers.

But the Ham Radio Operators come out and assist with non-disaster events in the city as well, including the Wistaria Festival, where they dispatch and coordinate the busses to and from the vine and provide support for lost persons and property. Annually at the Mount Wilson Trail Race, they provide radio coverage from Kersting Court along the streets up to where the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue take over.  Their prime concerns are directing runners and calling in medical emergencies.  Each Halloween on Alegria, they are the eyes and ears of the Police.  They have between 12 and 15 Hams walking along Alegria with a command center near Baldwin.  They have found lost children, parents and personal items.  Two years ago they found a dragon’s lost parents!

These unsung heroes deserve a great round of applause this evening as we recognize and thank them for all the time and effort they put forth keeping our community safe by keeping the lines of communication open!  The Sierra Madre Emergency Communications Team, the 2013 Public Safety Award recipient.

The final award this evening is presented to a person or an entity that represents a commitment to serving and volunteering, which is the true spirit of Sierra Madre, over the course of a lifetime.  The George Maurer Lifetime Service Award is an acknowledgement of significant contributions over an entire career. Its namesake, George Maurer, was first presented this award in 2006 for his selfless acts of dedication, honor and service to the community and City of Sierra Madre. Mr. Maurer spent 26 years as a volunteer firefighter and was one of the initiators of the emergency medical service in the 1970’s.  He spent 12 years on the City Council, three terms as mayor, and six years on the Planning Commission.  He chaired the Senior Housing Committee.  He also shared in a business in downtown. Mr. Maurer was a founder, and member, of the Sierra Madre Mountain Conservancy, and has also been a dedicated member of the Kiwanis Club of Sierra Madre and the Sierra Madre Rotary Club.

This year we honor Richard Mays, Sierra Madre resident and distinguished volunteer, with the George Maurer Lifetime Service Award.  Richard Mays started out in Virginia, and moved to Maryland before landing in Sierra Madre in the summer of 1961, just in time for an extremely rainy December and a brush fire the next summer.

After graduating from Pasadena High School, he enlisted in the Army and served for 6 years in Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; White Sands, New Mexico and several bases in Germany. He attended Pasadena City College and received an AA degree in Business Administration then transferring to Cal State LA to receive a Bachelors of Science.

Richard worked for 14 years at Wham-O in the San Gabriel Valley, 6 years for the San Gabriel Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America.  He was self-employed assisting small businesses with taxes and accounting, and worked for the City of Sierra Madre in the Finance Department.  He’s worked for Pasadena Neighborhood Housing Services, a nonprofit organization helping first time home buyers and providing foreclosure consulting.  He’s also worked for PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) Achieve in Glendale, another nonprofit helping homeless housing center with transitional housing and support services for the homeless.

His long history of volunteering started with the Sierra Madre Rose Float.  Then 32 years with the Sierra Madre Volunteer Fire Department.  He served as an officer and member of the Sierra Madre Volunteer Firefighters Association,  the San Gabriel Valley Fireman’s Association Board of Directors, 14 years with the Sierra Madre Girls Softball as treasurer, Sierra Madre Little League, helping with the project to fund the field at Sierra Madre School, participated in the Alyssa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, Relay for Life, served on the City of Sierra Madre’s ad hoc committee on finance, the UUT Oversight committee, he volunteers at the Police Department, is a member of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), is an AARP State and Community speaker and, instructor for driver safety course, is theTreasurer of the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society, and the Chamber of Commerce 2011 Citizen of the Year, AND he is currently the City Treasurer.

Richard is the true embodiment of a person who is always ready to step forward to serve.  Therefore, it is with the utmost honor that we present the George Maurer Lifetime Service Award tonight in recognition of a body of work of a dedicated community volunteer to Richard Mays.

I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my evening with all of you in attendance and I would like to express my deep appreciation for the invitation to emcee such an important community event. I would also like thank the organizers, the presenters, and the sponsors for their valuable contributions to this evening’s success.