A humble man wins Tri-Citian of the Year

Tri-Citians of the Year usually are popular choices -- individuals who are well-known, well-liked and well-motivated.

This year's winner is not only all of those things, he's humble too.

John Umbarger, as the letter nominating him for the prestigious award said, "is the ultimate example of a community-involved Tri-Citian."

We could not agree more.

Umbarger is a charming man, gentle in outlook but a tireless champion for getting good things done.

The original job that brought him to the Tri-Cities was manager of community programs for Fluor.

In other words, he was the go-to guy for community activities that needed Fluor's backing.

He excelled at that job, and when he retired early for health reasons, he kept up the same pace and even stepped it up a bit.

Here's a partial list of awards he received in recent years for outstanding volunteer service and leadership:

-- 2010 Crystal Apple Special Achievement Award.

-- 2008 Boys & Girls Club -- Community Partner of the Year.

-- 2006 West Richland Chamber of Commerce -- Executive Directors Award.

-- 2006 Richland Rotary Tri-City Leadership Award.

-- 2005 Sunrise Rotary Club -- Rotarian of the Year.

-- 2005 Domestic Violence Services -- Guardian Angel Award.

-- 2005 Boy Scouts -- Silver Beaver Award.

-- 1999, 2002 and 2005 U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary -- Outstanding Auxiliarist of the Year.

-- 2001 National Management Association -- Silver Knight of Management Award.

-- 2001 Mid-Columbia Reading Foundation -- Guardian Angel Award.

-- 2001 Mid-Columbia Educational Alliance -- Bridge-Builder Award

-- 2000 Educational Service District 123 -- Outstanding Services Award.

Umbarger very obviously does more than attend meetings.

He uses his head, his hands and his generous personality to get many things done in the community.

"Without John Umbarger's impact and help, this community would not be what it is today," said George Jones, named Tri-Citian of the Year in 1997. "John is so helpful; he just does everything, and does it right. Any agency that needs help, John is there to do it."

Those personal awards are some that Umbarger won on his own. The list of awards and activities while he was Fluor's lead person on community activities stretches out two or three times as long.

The Tri-Citian of the Year award is considered the community's highest honor.

It is sponsored by the local Lions Clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis and Soroptimist International.

These are organizations dedicated to the same ideals as Umbarger.

As the nomination form declared, Umbarger "has been the moving force in bringing together a coalition of businesses, service organizations and community leaders to accomplish many truly outstanding services that continue to benefit the people of the Tri-Cities."

It's well said.

And it is all true.

Congratulations, John.