Kennewick's man and woman of 2011 are known for rolling up their sleeves and helping to get the job done, instead of just giving orders on a project or community event.
Dennis Poland and Barbara Johnson received the honors at the annual banquet Monday night, which was attended by almost 200 people.
Poland, president of Ray Poland and Sons, and Johnson, general manager of the Columbia Center mall, were surprised when the announcements were made at the Three Rivers Convention Center.
"Oh my God. I think I'm going to throw up," Johnson said as she took the stage and promptly noticed more than a dozen family and friends walking into the room. "I just want to say I'm speechless, and that doesn't happen to me very often."
Johnson has been working to make Kennewick a regional hub for shopping, entertainment, quality restaurants and conventions, said her nomination letter. The countless hours she spends volunteering are said to have enhanced the lives of all Tri-Citians and helped the Mid-Columbia economy prosper.
"I love this community. I love the fact that we all work together as a wonderful team to do so many things," said Johnson, who spent a short time in Kennewick during her childhood and returned as an adult.
Johnson is an original member of the Kennewick Public Facilities Board. The board oversees the convention center and Toyota Center and has drawn musical acts, Broadway plays, technology and agricultural expos and religious conventions to the two venues, while sustaining the Tri-City Americans and Tri-Cities Fever.
She has held every office with Columbia Center Rotary and has been chairwoman for the United Way Campaign in Benton and Franklin counties and the Tri-Citian of the Year event. She also has served on the board of directors for the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau, the Tri-City Development Council and the Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"Barbara is not one to merely 'sit' on a committee; she is an active participant and will roll up her sleeves to achieve a common goal," Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Visitor and Convention Bureau, said for Johnson's nomination.
Shannon Novakovich, last year's winner, told the audience that Johnson "certainly makes Kennewick a better place to live."
Poland is a general contractor who was recognized by the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership in 2010 for putting a new office building across the street from his previous company quarters. He then received the Community Development Block Grant Revitalization Award.
"Dennis Poland is a sterling example of an unselfish individual with an extensive history of selflessly giving his time, resources and energy to make Kennewick a better place to live, work, play, visit and invest," his nomination letter stated. "He exhibits the kind of work ethic, professionalism and volunteerism that one wishes was characteristic of all citizens considering there are virtually no monetary motivations or rewards for doing so. Dennis is truly admirable."
Poland's dossier of service to the Tri-Cities includes sitting on the 9/11 Memorial Committee and helping with construction for the ground zero artifact in the Southridge complex and serving on the Committee for Kennewick's Bridge-to-Bridge Riverfront Revitalization.
He has donated labor and equipment to numerous Columbia Park projects, the Regional Veterans Memorial, Kennewick's American Youth Baseball Complex, Kennewick High baseball fields, the Downtown Kennewick Clock Plaza, Hospice at the Chaplaincy, Cathedral of Joy, Wallula Park and Pasco Little League.
Poland provides cranes, a water truck and miscellaneous supplies for Water Follies and sponsors a large number of athletic teams and charitable events throughout the Mid-Columbia.
The Kennewick High alum also encourages and allows his employees to be involved in community projects and organizations for the betterment of Kennewick, his nomination letter said.
"I really don't know what to say. Thank you," Poland said.
In accepting the honor, he was surrounded by more than 20 members of his extended family, including his mother, Ruby. He told the crowd that his purpose in doing it all is for them -- his loved ones -- and future generations.
"That's why I do what I do, to make the community better. And I hope all of you help to make it better," Poland said.
He thanked all the good customers the company has had through the years and encouraged people to use local contractors, saying there are a number of them in the Tri-Cities.
The event was presented by Soroptimist International of Pasco-Kennewick and the Kennewick Past Men of the Year Club.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; email@example.com