It was an emotional but upbeat celebration honouring Sharon Dickie as the Shaunavon Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year on Saturday.
A large crowd gathered at Christ the King Church Hall Saturday night to pay tribute to the community’s leading advocate and longest serving mayor.
“She has always gone above and beyond to put Shaunavon on the map,” said Janelle Wickstrom, a former Shaunavon councillor who nominated Sharon for the award along with Jay Meyer. Sharon was also nominated by Shaunavon administrator Tara Fritz and longtime councillor Mike Elmgren.
Wickstrom choked up near the end of her presentation as she listed the many contributions that Sharon has made to the community and the Southwest over the years.
“Jay and I have both seen first-hand the passion with which you’ve represented this town,” said Wickstrom.
Passion, professionalism, love, sincerity, hard-work, and dedication were just a few of the superlatives that were shared by many of the speakers and presenters who attended Saturday’s gathering to honour Sharon.
Among those lining up to pay homage to mayor Dickie was Canadian hockey legend, and a proud former Shaunavon resident, Hayley Wickenheiser, who was featured in a video presentation.
“I can’t think of a more deserving person for this award,” said Hayley. “Not only have you been a great friend, but you’ve been a great leader for the community.”
Alderman Grant Greenslade, who has served on council with Sharon for several terms, made a presentation on behalf of the town.
“Sharon has worked hard and put in many hours on behalf of the town,” he stated. “It’s been more than 20 years of dedication to the town of Shaunavon.”
“This award is very well deserved,” he added.
Newly elected Cypress Hills MLA Doug Steele was also on hand for Saturday’s gala. Along with reading a personal letter of congratulations from premier Brad Wall, Steele also spoke about his own experience dealing with Sharon on a variety of municipal-based projects and issues over the years.
“I’ve always had great respect for Sharon’s hard work on behalf of Shaunavon and the southwest,” said Steele.
“I know the great love and commitment she has for the town,” said Cypress Hills Grasslands MP David Anderson during his presentation. “She is your best ambassador.”
In fact, it was Sharon’s ability to help unite the Southwest, bringing communities together from across the region, that was recognized by several speakers on Saturday.
Among those making presentations were Maple Creek mayor Barry Rudd and Eastend mayor Alan Howard.
“It has never been easier to work with anyone,” said Howard. “She has always been there to help and lend support.”
Messages of congratulations from reeves and mayors were also read from the rural municipalities of Arlington, Bone Creek, and Grassy Creek as well as the villages of Climax and Frontier.
Conrad Sandberg, accompanied on guitar by Joe Gregoire, provided entertainment during the event with two songs specifically requested by Sharon herself.
Other presenters on Saturday included Arlene Unvoas of the Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewardship group, Charmaine Bernath on behalf of the Southwest Waste Management Authority, former Shaunavon mayor Gordon Speirs, and Garnet Stevenson on behalf of the Shaunavon Wellness and Leisure Committee.
Many shared personal stories and anecdotes about Sharon’s love for the community and her genuine warmth for its citizens.
Bernath, who also worked as the town administrator during 12 years of Sharon’s tenure on council, spoke in personal terms of the positive impact Shaunavon’s mayor has had on the community.
She ended her presentation with a Royal Purple tribute that is used for outgoing Honoured Royal Ladies.
“Well done thou good and faithful servant,” said Bernath.
Kyle Bennett served as the emcee for the occasion and took a unique twist to the proceedings by treating the gathering in much the same manner as a council or board meeting. He brought a gavel to the event and periodically asked members of the audience to forward motions such as filing the correspondence and moving to the next order of business.
“I believe Shaunavon is a better place because of Sharon’s dedication and hard work and all the countless hours she has put into this town,” said Bennett, who has served as a town councillor with Sharon for the past five years.
The evening took another personal turn with presentations from Sharon’s sons Kevin and Cam Dickie.
Both men referenced Sharon’s recent health battles.
Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer in December and has started treatment for the disease.
“This recognition to mom means more to her than you will ever know,” said Kevin. “It came at a perfect time. It’s given her a bounce in her step that she really needs.”
Kevin admitted that his mom loves to “brag about Shaunavon . . . and I do brag a lot about my mom being the mayor of Shaunavon.”
He noted, however, while Sharon is extremely proud of Shaunavon’s accomplishments, he has never heard her take credit for any success the community has enjoyed.
He also said she embodies the ideal of waking up every day and trying to make a “significant difference in people’s lives.”
In his presentation, Cam recalled a recent time when his mom was in the hospital facing the grim reality of a lengthy treatment.
“One of her first worries was not missing SUMA and not missing council,” said Cam.
Cam also noted that “mom’s love for this community is sincere” and that during his lifetime he never once “heard her say anything bad about anyone.”
Cam and Kevin also used the occasion to announce that they have created a new scholarship in their mother’s name for graduates of the Shaunavon High School. Starting with the class of 2017, the Sharon Dickie Achievement Award will recognize a student who embodies ideals that include love of community, passion, healthy competition, and a team-first approach. The $1,000 scholarship will recognize academic and/or athletic achievements.
Cam quickly added that the scholarship is not “a memorial.” “We expect mom to be around for many years to come.”
Shaunavon Chamber of Commerce president Joanne Gregoire then made the official Citizen of the Year presentation.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have had such a long-serving mayor who is so passionate about seeing Shaunavon and the entire Southwest community achieve its full potential.,” said Gregoire. “Sharon is a leader, and it has been my experience that leaders can be hard to find these days.”
The final words came from Sharon as she expressed her gratitude to her friends, family and the entire community.
“I am so blessed,” she stated. “I couldn’t be in a better community than Shaunavon.”
The crowd rose for a standing ovation at the end of her remarks and Bennett accepted a motion from the floor to adjourn the meeting.
Sharon has been on council since 1994 and has never been defeated in a local municipal election. She was first elected as mayor in 2004 and went on to win a record four more terms. Her most recent win came in 2012 with a ringing endorsement from the public as she won a resounding victory in a race that continued her streak as the longest serving mayor in the community’s history. She is also the community’s first and only woman to be elected as mayor.
Sharon’s selection as the Shaunavon Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year recognizes her extraordinary record of public service.
Serving on council for 22 years has allowed Sharon to represent Shaunavon on regional, provincial and national levels. She has sat on such regional boards as the Cypress Hills REDA, Whitemud Economic Development Authority, Southwest Transportation Planning Committee and Southwest Waste Management.
In fact, she points to a regional project as her most rewarding experience on council.
Sharon says the effort to construct the regional landfill site was a huge program that required a strong commitment from all of the participating partners. The project included the involvement of Shaunavon and Eastend, as well as five neighbouring municipalities.
Sharon has also served on groups that have included the Administration Committee, Public Works Committee, Wellness and Leisure Committee, Southwest Municipal Government Committee, South Saskatchewan Watershed Committee, Doctor and Nurse Recruitment and Retention Committees and Hockey Day in Canada.
She has been invited to represent small urban centers at the provincial Mayors Conference and has also been involved with the committee set up to deal with Gas Tax reforms.
In 2013, Sharon was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal for her dedication to her community and nation. This award is presented only to those who are nominated by their peers in local government across the country.
Sharon was also instrumental in keeping momentum going for the completion of the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre. She spent countless hours soliciting sponsorships and telling everyone that she could think of how wonderful Shaunavon was and how it deserved to be home to the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre.
Locally, Sharon supports nearly every function she can, whether it’s an exhibit at the Grand Coteau Centre, the Shaunavon Wildlife Banquet or watching the local teams playing at the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre.
With the support of council – who encouraged her to finish her term – Sharon has been able to carry on duties as mayor while also dealing with her health issues.
Sharon had announced earlier this year that she will not seek another term as mayor. She has stated that her health issues were not connected with her decision to step down as mayor this fall and that she ran in 2012 with the understanding that it would be her last election.
However, she made it clear on Saturday that she still plans to be an active member of the community.
“I’m not going to roll over,” she told the crowd. “I still plan to continue to work on the community’s behalf.”
The event was filmed by a crew from Access 7 for viewing at a later date.
Saturday’s event marked the 19th annual Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award.
Past Citizens of the Year who were in attendance on Saturday included:
Norm Lavoy (1998)
Joe & Joanne Gregoire (2000)
Vince Stevenson (2005)
Gord Speirs (2006)
Ken Billington (2010)
Janelle Wickstrom & Jay Meyer (2011)
Mike Elmgren (2013)
Ken & Merle Shaw (2014)
Kathleen East (2015)
The Shaunavon Chamber of Commerce is proud to sponsor an award that acknowledges the contributions of those people who give so much of themselves for the betterment of the community.
Once again this year the organization received several very well qualified nominees, and the Chamber knows that there are many more volunteers in the community who all deserve to be nominated.
The Chamber of Commerce hopes that people will continue to submit their nominations so that this event may live on for many years to come.