Marcia Harris of Longbranch received the 36th Key Peninsula Lions Club Citizen of the Year Award during a ceremony and celebration at the KP Civic Center March 25 for her decades of service to the community in education and as a volunteer.
The original 2019 Citizen of the Year Award ceremony scheduled for March 2020 was delayed by pandemic restrictions. The Lions Club decided against presenting it in absentia or in a virtual format, since the nominees all deserved a night of celebration with the community, said club President Bill Jones.
Harris therefore became the 2019 winner of the — now formerly — annual award, selected by secret ballot of Lions Club members from a roster of 14 nominees.
“Anybody who lives on the peninsula, works on the peninsula or even owns property on the peninsula who makes whatever you feel is an outstanding contribution to society is eligible (for the award),” said Hal Wolverton, the club vice president. “It was designed for volunteers, but it’s not limited to volunteers because some people go way above and beyond.”
“I was just stunned,” Harris said. “I was sitting there thinking who of these nominees I picked would win, and I was so interested to see if I was right. It didn’t occur to me it would be me.
“I have been so proud to work, to be part of this community. To be honored by this, by these people, by this event, it’s just unbelievable,” she said.
Harris’ work in education began in 1973 in the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction as a financial analyst, during which time she earned an MBA. Her career took her from Olympia to Yakima, Moses Lake, Chimacum and Shoreline, and twice to the Peninsula School District.
She and her husband, Jeff (the 2012 Citizen of the Year), came to the KP in 1995 when she was hired as deputy superintendent of Peninsula School District at a time of crisis. “They were in serious financial trouble; they’d had four levy failures,” she said. “There were 16 (state) audit findings, which was the worst any school district had ever experienced.”
The ship was righted by 2003 and the district passed a long overdue bond.
Harris retired in 2012 but within a month began a new career of volunteering for the KP. She served on the KP Community Council, the board of KP Community Services, oversaw the free KP Connects school bus service, remains an active member of the Gig Harbor Rotary Club and the Minerva Scholarship Fund, and is a volunteer master gardener.
In 2014, she started looking for someone to run for the Peninsula School Board. It ended up being her.
After one term and 41 years in education, Harris retired for the second time Dec. 12, 2019.
“I really did some soul-searching to decide whether I was going to run again,” she said. “It feels good to have passed a bond (in 2019).” The $198.55 million bond built two new elementary schools, replaced two others, and remodeled two middle schools.
“I kind of grew up doing things and giving back,” she said. “My grandma said about volunteering, ‘Giving back is the rent you pay for the space you take up while you’re on Earth.’ ”
Citizen of the Year Awards for the pandemic years will be devoted to honoring those who continued to serve their community during that time, such as first responders and essential workers, according to Jones. The Lions Club will be seeking individual nominees for the 2023 award at the end of the year.
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