Members of the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce raised a glass Thursday night to toast Laura Martinson and Holly Johnson, who were named the 2021 Citizens of the Year at the Alaskan Brewing Tasting Room.
The evening marked the chamber’s first after-hours event since COVID-19 canceled many of the city’s social events for almost two years — including the chamber’s annual banquet, which is usually held each October in Centennial Hall.
Martinson, who owns Caribou Crossings, and Johnson, president of Wings Airways, received the award in recognition of their leadership of the Protect Juneau’s Future committee.
In the spring and early summer, the pair led an information campaign that organizers credit with stopping a trio of ballot initiatives that–if passed — would have changed the city’s charter and limited the number of cruise ship passengers arriving in Juneau each year.
“There was a rock solid group of dedicated people who came together to form and to fight for Protect Juneau’s Future,” said Tanja Cadigan, who presented the award. “However, there were particularly fierce leaders who steered the organization with a clear vision and full conviction of what they believed would work. They made something that seemed impossible, possible,” she said.
Cadigan praised the pair’s long game for starting a conversation about the industry.
“Their steadfast directive was to push the positives of the industry, which is the heart of who these amazing individuals truly are,” she said. “They created a tidal wave of brilliant marketing tactics where the community was literally flooded with the undeniable black-and-white numbers-and stories of how tourism benefits Juneau.”
Craig Dahl, executive director of the chamber, called the pair a “dynamic duo” and praised their work ethic. Dahl said that he often arrived at the office to find emails Martinson and Johnson had sent before dawn, reporting the completion of tasks discussed only the day before.
Past President of the Chamber Eric Forst, said the Protect Juneau’s Future Group was launched to respond to a variety of issues facing local industries.
“The visitor industry was one area that faced not only devastation from COVID but the potential for catastrophic restrictions as well,” he told the crowd before the award presentation.
He said that chamber members met last winter to start exploring potential solutions.
“The chamber took the lead in bringing together the various groups and focusing their efforts on a common solution. This gave rise to a new organization Protect Juneau’s Future,” First said.
Martinson and Johnson expressed surprise when Cadigan announced the pair as the winners.
“I’m shocked,” Martinson said after receiving her award. “It means so much from this group of people who I view as a room full of mentors. It’s such a surprise.”
In a Saturday morning phone interview, Johnson said that friends and neighbors had stopped by with wishes since the announcement.
“I’m shocked and humbled,” Johnson said. “It’s strange and beautiful to be honored like that.”
The Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce has been presenting the Citizen of the Year Award since 1977. Forst said that community members submit nominations for the award committee, which selects the winner.
Forst said the award honors people who go “above and beyond their traditional service to the community of Juneau.”
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-308-4891.