Thursday, April 13, 2023

Northville chamber celebrates Citizen of the Year

Sue Hillebrand, second from left, named 2023 Northville Citizen of the Year
celebrates with the other award winners at the recent Northville Community
Awards Dinner organized by the Northville Chamber of Commerce. Northville
Township Supervisor Mark Abbo, far left, congratulated all the winners. 
Sue Hillebrand has been honored as the 2023 Northville Citizen of the Year.

Her selection was announced during the recent first comprehensive Northville Community Awards Dinner organized by the Northville Chamber of Commerce. The evening began with dinner at Genitti's and then audiences walked the red carpet at the Marquis Theatre for the awards presentation.

Hillebrand served as the longest elected township clerk (26 years) during a time of great growth in the community, officials said. She conducted 30 successful elections, earned the Master Municipal Clerk certification, and served on various state and county clerks' boards.

Hillebrand has also served the community as a member of the Township Board of Trustees, the Beautification Commission, and the Parks and Recreation Commission. She continued, even after her retirement in 2019, to serve as a resource and mentor to township staff, generously giving of her time and talents for the betterment of the entire Northville community, according to a prepared statement from Chamber of Commerce officials who noted that these were some of the qualifications in awarding Hillebrand the Citizen of the Year honor.

“It is because of these traits, and all she has done for the community over the past three decades, that Sue Hillebrand was named Citizen of the Year,” officials said.

Other yearly volunteer awards were also presented including:  

Library Volunteer of the Year award - Linda Bastien

In 2017, Linda Bastien, along with her husband, Will, took over the management of the Friends of the Northville District Library Used Book Donation Program. On any given week, the people of Northville donate 700 - 1,000 used books to the library. More than 50 volunteers work on this endeavor and Bastien coordinates the entire operation. The Used Book program annually provides 50 percent of the total funding raised by the Friends of the Library.

The money generated by Friends of the Northville District Library supports many initiatives, including its annual Battle of the Books - a middle school reading tournament, which had 115 competitors this year, officials said.

Northville Township Volunteer of Year Award - Jeffrey Oles

All trails in Northville Township led to Jeff Oles. He's been a township resident since 2005 and a passionate mountain biker. He's created a lot of the township paths by working on them, planning them, or recommending routes

When Northville Township prepared a Master Plan in 2010 for Legacy Park, (332 acres of the former state psychiatric hospital property), mountain bike trails weren't part of the plan. That quickly changed thanks to Oles and his extensive network. He was invited to help put in trails on the eastern end of the park, according to an official statement from chamber officials.

City Volunteer of the Year - Nancy Darga

Nancy Darga has faithfully served the city of Northville and Wayne County in many capacities as an employee, elected official, and volunteer over the years, resulting in positive, meaningful changes in our community, officials said. She previously worked 27 years for Wayne County Road Commission and Wayne County Parks, giving her a vast and deep knowledge of local infrastructure and environmental concerns, they added.

Darga is a founding member of the Friends of the River Rouge and Motor City National Heritage Area, and a long-time supporter of Mill Race Village. Darga was a Northville City Council member for 12 years and she served more than 20 years with the Parks and Recreation Department. She now serves as chair of the River Restoration Task Force, a team dedicated to restoring the health of Northville waterways, daylighting the Rouge River and establishing walking trails, along with overseeing the planning of the future Farmers' Market and the Ford Field initiative.

Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year - Sher Watkins

For more than 10 years, Watkins managed the Northville Farmers Market. Additionally, she has been actively involved with the Farmers Market Task Force, ensuring the success of the next generation of this award-winning market.

When asked to assist with the Farmers Market last year, Watkins flew home from Mackinac Island to assist in the successful launch of the market. Watkins Sher has used her experience with the Michigan Farmers' Market Association to the benefit of all in our community. Her involvement has helped make the Northville Farmers' Market an award-winning gathering and the largest Thursday market in the state, officials said.