Three employees of the City of Fairbanks took home leadership awards this week from the Alaska Municipal League at its annual conference in Anchorage.
City Mayor Jerry Cleworth was named "Elected Official of the Year," while City Clerk Janey Hovenden was named "Clerk of the Year."
Longtime city Chief of Staff Pat Cole received the "Vic Fischer Municipal Employee Award."
Cole is my older brother, though many people seem to think he is my younger brother. He is dedicated to his work and he's someone who I depend on for good advice and sound analysis, which sinks in some of the time.
He has an amazing ability to get along with others and finds ways to keep people with different points of view from ripping each other apart over petty disagreements—and that's just at family gatherings.
The Vic Fischer award, named after the former legislator and delegate to our constitutional convention, is given annually to someone in Alaska who makes a "significant statewide contribution to improving local government and communities in Alaska."
Cleworth and City Attorney Paul Ewers nominated Cole for the award, saying his work often goes unrecognized because of his stay-in-the-background style.
"Never one to draw attention to himself, Patrick is more likely to credit and praise others or to emphasize that a project was a group effort," they said.
He has worked with local mayors from John Carlson to Jerry Cleworth in a variety of positions.
Speaking of Cleworth, the current mayor spent 20 years on the Fairbanks City Council, the longest tenure of anyone in the history of the town. He was nominated by former council members Vivian Stiver and Chad Roberts for the elected official honor. The award is presented by AML to someone who has "demonstrated a commitment to excellence in local government."
In city government, "efficiency and economy have been his themes," they said.
"In addition to his dedication to good government, Jerry is devoted to his family, his church and community. He somehow finds time to operate a small business, play the guitar, assist with coaching high school fast-pitch softball" and he is a voracious reader, they said.
As a council member and as a mayor, Cleworth has worked closely with Hovenden. He nominated Hovenden for the Clerk of the Year honor.
She began her work with the city in 1983 and moved to the clerk's office in 1999. She has risen through the ranks. As clerk, she works for the six members of the council and the mayor.
"When one has literally seven different 'bosses,' the clerk's position can be stressful, but Janey has a natural ability of working with each personality and does it with both a professional and genuine caring attitude," Cleworth wrote.