KENNEWICK — The 2011 Tri-Citian of the Year award went to a "true patriot."
That is one of the many phrases that were used to describe Skip Novakovich as he was honored Saturday for more than 20 years of service in the Tri-Cities.
But Richland's Novakovich said he could not take credit for the long list of community service efforts that John Umbarger, 2010 Tri-Citian of the Year, had read out loud.
Novakovich said the credit for the gifts and service he and his wife, Shannon, have given to the Tri-Cities community should go to God.
"You don't worry about awards or rewards or what you can get," he said. "Just worry about what you can give to people and the rest of it will come."
Novakovich was joined by Shannon and two of their three children as well as grandchildren as he accepted the award to the standing ovation of more than 150 people who gathered at Kennewick's Three Rivers Convention Center.
Umbarger admitted some of them were having a bit of trouble telling if Esprit Graphics, the Kennewick business Skip and Shannon own, was for profit or a nonprofit because the business annually contributes more than $50,000 in graphic design, printing and mailing services to support various community programs and organizations.
Novakovich "exemplifies the true spirit of the Tri-Citian of the Year Award," according to the nomination letter. He anonymously was nominated for the award that recognizes someone who models "service above self."
The nomination letter pointed to Novakovich's work in opening transitional housing for veterans in Kennewick as an example of how he has tried to help address unfilled community needs.
As part of his work as president of the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, Novakovich this year helped start transitional housing for veterans. The organization converted a 2,100-square-foot, four-bedroom home that was under foreclosure, and being offered by the city through its Neighborhood Stabilization Program, into veteran housing.
A retired Army lieutenant colonel, Novakovich has given his time to more than 26 local committees and groups, including the Benton-Franklin Mounted Sheriff's Posse, Columbia Basin Badger Club and the Washington State University Tri-Cities' Signature 2020/Destination 5000 committee. He also is the commission chairman for the Port of Kennewick.
His past awards include 1999 Kennewick Man of the Year, Outstanding Partner of the Year with the Kennewick School District, Everyday Hero Award from Kiwanis, Kennewick's Leadership Award for the Bridge-to-Bridge/River-to-Railroad project and Lifetime Volunteer Award for First Night International.
Novakovich and his wife were named Mr. and Mrs. First Night Tri-Cities in 2006 and have been honored with the Downtowner of the Year Award.