More than 300 Juneau residents donned their finest suits and sparkliest dresses Saturday night at Centennial hall to celebrate the first in-person Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner event since 2019 and to witness the presentation of numerous awards to board members and residents at a mining themed event.
The award ceremony started with outgoing President Wayne Jensen, senior principal architect and president of Jensen Yorba Wall, Inc., passing the gavel to incoming president John Blasco, CEO of Anchorage Distillery, who was sworn in at the event.
It was also announced Laura McDonnell, owner of Caribou Crossings, would fill in Blasco’s previous role as the chamber’s new president-elect.
The chamber welcomed, Kara Hollatz, business development manager at Airlift Northwest and an Ironman Alaska finisher, as one of the three new directors announced at the evening event. She is joined by fellow Ironman Alaska finisher Heather Nelson, who works in community affairs and human resources at Hecla Greens Creek Mining Company, and Roger Calloway, owner of Reliable Transfer Corp.
Dick and Candy Behrends, married couple and co-owners of Behrends Mechanical Inc., were surprised to be named Citizens of the Year for their contribution to the Juneau community both charitably and through their volunteer work over many years.
Blasco described the pair as “true pillars” in the community, each for their individual work and their contribution as a duo.
“They are some of the nicest and friendliest people you will ever meet,” Blasco said about the pair.
Candy said she was honored and surprised to receive the award and gave a short thanks to the chamber and people in the crowd.
“We are deeply honored to be recognized this way, thank you very much,” Candy said on behalf of them both.
The late Rosemary Hagevig, former Assembly member and citizen of the year who died this April at 80 years old, was posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award, which was accepted on her behalf at the event by her son, Bill Hagevig.
“I was blessed to have her as a mom,” he said. “She would have been thrilled to have received this award.”
A capital city resident since 1962, Hagevig was known in the community for her time serving on numerous boards across Juneau and Alaska. She held two terms on the Assembly from 1994 to 1997 and was one of 11 Alaskans to carry the Olympic Torch in 1996.
Named Juneau’s citizen of the year in 1995, her lifetime of activities included more than 30 years of leadership with Catholic Community Service, 27 years at the Alaska State Department of Education and Early Development and most recently serving as vice president of Bartlett Regional Hospital’s board of directors.
Juneau resident Laraine Derr announced the award and thanked Hagevig for her “wonderful years giving to Juneau.”
“She will be remembered for her service to her community and beyond,” Derr said through tears. “She made Juneau a better place for everyone.”
The chamber also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jerry Harmon who is well known in the Juneau community as a founder and the president of Juneau Gold Rush Days, a miner for more than 40 years and a volunteer across numerous projects and boards in Juneau.
“I love to volunteer, I get a lot out of it,” he said after receiving the award. “It’s not an ‘I thing,’ it’s a ‘we thing.’”
Harmon’s has been involved with the popular Juneau Gold Rush Days since it was founded in 1990 and this year it celebrated its 30th year after missing the past two years.
The event —which celebrates Juneau’s long mining and logging history — has made a significant impact in the community for decades and during its peak years, it attracted more than 10,000 people to a variety of contests, vendors, fair foods, gold panning and children’s activities.
Harmon said he is grateful for the award and for the other people and volunteers who don’t get this recognition.
“I accept this award for all the volunteers in the city of Juneau,” he said.
In a surprise announcement at the end of the ceremony, the chamber’s executive director Craig Dahl announced he will be stepping down in his position after nearly eight years and executive assistant Maggie McMillan will take over starting Nov. 1.
“I have enjoyed every moment as executive director,”Dahl said. He said he will continue to work for the chamber, but will focus more on government affairs.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.