Clark County’s 2020 & 2021 First Citizen 

Congratulations to Diana Avalos-Leos for being awarded Clark County’s First Citizen for 2020 and 2021.

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Nomination Process

The nomination period has closed. 

The First Citizen Award is selected by a volunteer committee of community leaders and past recipients. The award is presented to a Clark County resident who has modeled exemplary citizenship through actions and service to the community.

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. With our First Citizen Award, we honor those whose compassion and service uplifts all residents in southwest Washington and serves as an inspiration to others.
We welcome a diverse pool of qualified nominations.

First Citizens Through the Years

1939 – George Simpson

The original First Citizen, Simpson was a Vancouver city attorney and county judge who was appointed and then elected to the Washington Supreme Court where he served from 1937 to 1951, including two terms as chief justice. Simpson is also remembered as a longtime Scoutmaster, as founder and president of the Clark County Golf and Country Club, first chairman of the Clark County Game Commission and a leader in numerous other civic and service organizations.

1940 – Horace Daniels

Daniels was one of the first directors of the Vancouver Lions (1928-1929). He worked in banking and was president of the Clark County National Bank when it merged with Seattle-First National Bank in 1947. He served on the city’s planning commission and was its chairman in 1945. Vancouver’s Daniels Street is named after him.

1941 – Joseph E. Hall

Hall was a longtime lawyer who also served as a county clerk and prosecuting attorney. Hall was also a state legislator and was a Vancouver School Board member for 15 years.

1942 – Edgar Kaiser

Manager of three Oregon and Washington shipyards during the war, Kaiser was lauded for supplying adequate housing, child care and a pre-paid health plan for workers. The plan opened to the general public in 1945. Kaiser served on the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (1960-1971), the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (1962-1964), the President’s Advisory Committee on Labor-Management Policy (1966-1967), and the President’s Advisory Committee on Refugees (1975-1976).

1943 – Howard J. Burnham

A title company manager, Burnham was one of the founders of the city planning commission and a leader in post-war planning. An author, editor and researcher focusing on Pacific Northwest history, he served on the board of trustees for the Fort Vancouver Restoration and Historical Society.

1944 – Chris Loan

An officer for the National Bank of Commerce in Seattle, Loan also served as a trustee of the city’s Hotel Association.

1945 – Eva Santee

The first woman to be named First Citizen, Santee helped shape library systems in Clark County. As a Camas librarian for eight years, Santee led a drive to have a library building constructed there. While a librarian in Vancouver for 27 years, Santee helped spearhead a bond issue to finance a new Vancouver Regional Library building, which opened in 1963. She served as president of the Pacific Northwest Library Association, and was active in many other organizations.

1946 – Carl Gustafson

Fun and games were part of Gustafson’s profession as recreation and athletic director for the Greater Vancouver Recreation Association. He oversaw many events, including the annual bicycle day at Shumway track. His name lives on at Carl Gustafson Park, 202 Nashville Way, Vancouver.

1947 – Dewey Crowley

The longtime head of the juvenile division for the Vancouver Police Department, Crowley was an advocate for all of the youth of the community.

1948 – Louise Ratchford

Ratchford volunteered for numerous organizations and efforts, including the YWCA and fund raising drives to fight cancer. She was also recognized for her disaster relief work with the Red Cross during the Vanport flood.

1949 – E. Norman Purser

A public relations director for Alcoa, Purser’s community service included serving as president of the Rotary Club of Vancouver.

1950 – Charles W. Hall

Hall taught Latin and math at Vancouver High School after fighting in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. He practiced law in Vancouver for years, was a Vancouver School Board member and president, and served two terms as a state representative and two as a senator. In 1937, he was appointed judge of Clark County Superior Court and served in that capacity for 18 years.

1951 – Rudolph A. Luepke

A florist, Luepke served on the Vancouver City Council and was mayor of Vancouver from 1962 to1966. Luepke served as a Chamber of Commerce president and received the National Brotherhood Week award from the Vancouver Knights of Pythias.

1952 – Alvord D. Noble

A mechanical engineer for Alcoa, Noble’s community service included a term as president of the Ft. Vancouver Kiwanis Club in 1944.

1953 – Dwight Alderman

Manager of Portland Gas & Coke in downtown Vancouver, Alderman served as local chairman of a March of Dimes fundraiser in 1949 and as a Rotary Club of Vancouver president (1952-1953).

1954 – George G. Goodrich

A renowned Clark County restaurateur and past president of the Washington State Restaurant Association, Goodrich was involved in numerous civic organizations. He was a board member of St. Joseph Community Hospital, Southwest Washington Medical Center and the Clark College Foundation and was a life member of Vancouver Elks Lodge 823 and a Knights of Columbus member.

1955 – Robert DuBois

A successful realtor and developer, DuBois’ developments included Lakewood near Vancouver Lake and Braewood, which later became known as DuBois Park. A city park at Palo Alto Drive and California Way bears the name of the civic leader who served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, a chairman of the freeholders committee and on the planning commission.

1956 – Charles Sanford Thayer

Called “Mr. Aluminum,” Thayer was instrumental in bringing the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) plant to Vancouver. He stayed with the plant until his retirement in 1956. His community service included leadership in state parole and probation groups, the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and Vancouver School Board.

1957 – Raymond Bachman

A longtime editor and publisher for The Columbian, Bachman helped organize the Vancouver Junior Chamber of Commerce, was a Vancouver Rotary president and worked on campaigns to fight tuberculosis and polio. He helped organize the Fort Vancouver Historical Society and served on its board for 25 years.

1958 – Gene Lynch

Community-minded Lynch was a supervisor for Seattle-First National Bank.

1959 – Manuel “Manny” Helm

An Army veteran who served in World War II, Helm’s activity with several organizations, boards and committees included the Metro Advisory Board, the Chamber of Commerce, the Salvation Army Advisory Board, a director for the United Fund and chairing the County Board of Education. He was a member of the American Legion, the Jaycees, the Elks Lodge and the Kiwanis.

1960 – Lewis D. Cannell

Dr. Cannell was Dean of Clark College from 1935 until his retirement in 1970. Over this thirty-five year period as Dean he was the face of the college to the community. In addition he served as Chairman of the Clark County Planning Commission, headed up a citizen’s committee to build the Vancouver Community Library and belonged to Rotary Club for more than fifty years. Today his name lives on in the Lewis D. Cannell Library on the Clark College campus.

1961 – Gale Bettesworth

A manager for the Clark County Branch of Seattle-First National Bank, Bettesworth’s civic involvements include serving as president of the Vancouver Lions Club (1962 to 1963), the Clark County Red Cross and the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.

1962 – Ed Firstenburg

First Independent bank founder Firstenburg and his wife, Mary have donated millions of dollars to a myriad of Clark County causes. Major donations include gifts to Washington State University Vancouver (the Firstenburg Family Fountain and the Firstenburg Student Commons), Southwest Washington Medical Center (Firstenburg Patient Tower), and funding toward construction of the Firstenburg Community Center.

1963 – Freeman Keller

The Kiwanis, the Rotary, the YMCA, Salvation Army, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and Scouting USA are just some of the organizations Keller had a hand in. A real estate agent into his 80s, Keller’s name lives on in the annual award the Clark County Association of Realtors gives to Realtors offering outstanding service.

1964 – Donald Kallstrom

A community-minded business leader, Kallstrom was a vice president and manager for the Vancouver branch of the National Bank of Commerce of Seattle.

1965 – Bob Avery

Founder of the Fort Vancouver Civic Club, a Fort Vancouver Regional Library board member and chairman are just a few items on attorney Avery’s long list of community contributions. Avery also participated in school levy and city beautification campaigns and spearheaded the annual Fourth of July fireworks spectacular that has become such a significant part of Vancouver’s identity.

1966 – Bill Marshall

A World War II veteran and owner of a Vancouver Ford dealership, Marshall was a director for Memorial Hospital, a United Way chairman, a youth sports sponsor and advocate and school volunteer. He received the Downtown Vancouver Rotary Club’s Vocational Service Award due to his integrity, community contributions and leadership.

1967 – Larry Hobbs

Hobbs worked for the Vancouver Housing Authority following World War II before embarking on a career with the Chamber of Commerce that spanned from 1959 to 1981. Hobbs was well known for his energetic enthusiasm regarding the city of Vancouver and its citizens.

1968 – Orrin Hathaway

A longtime salesman for Pacific Building Materials, Hathaway served in the Army in World War II.

1969 – W. Wayne Holmes

A life fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Holmes’ many contributions include supporting the Free Clinic of SW Washington.

1970 – Jean Lacey

Lacey was the first Executive Director of the YWCA of Clark County. In the 19 years she held the job, she pioneered numerous outreach and assistance programs. Lacey went on to serve as a national and international consultant for the YWCA of Clark County.

1971 – Mitchell Bower, Jr.

A longtime business consultant, Bower’s diverse community service includes being an Identity Clark County board member and a member of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

1972 – Erwin Rieger

Longtime writer and editor for The Columbian, Rieger was an avid outdoorsman and a Scoutmaster for 50 years. A portion of State Route 501 was renamed the Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway in 1991.

1973 – Lloyd Stromgren

As mayor of Vancouver from 1972 to 1973, Stromgren shared his vision of a beautiful, thriving Central Park area and using the former Army Barracks land as a cultural center. He advocated ushering in the “human age,” helping people with barriers, struggles and addictions.

1974 – Jack Francis

Known as Mr. Music, Francis was a longtime director of music for the Vancouver School District. He set high standards for his students in their music and lives, and is credited with helping shape our community’s creative landscape.

1975 – Helen Patricia “Pat” Walz

A journalist, outdoor enthusiast and avid traveler, Walz’ community service includes co-founding Hospice Southwest. She also served on the national board of the American Red Cross and was named a Portland Woman of Accomplishment.

1976 – Naida Pithoud

Active in local politics, Pithoud served as chairman of the Republican party of Clark County for more than 10 years. She is credited with earning the respect of candidates and office holders in both political parties.

1977 – Rudy Anderson

Longtime operations manager for Alcoa, in addition to his community contributions in Clark County, Anderson put his engineering degree to use as a road and dam builder in South America.

1978 – Ethel Lehman

A Vancouver City Council member for 16 years, Lehman was active in numerous organizations, including the Soroptimist Business-Women’s Club, Emil Fries Piano Hospital, YWCA, Share, Council for the Homeless, RSVP, National Council of Jewish Women, Clark County Historical Society, Salvation Army, Hadassah, Humane Society for Southwest Washington and the Greater Vancouver Interfaith Association

1979 – Peggy Lansverk

A Clark College-YWCA Clark County Woman of Achievement Honoree in 1997, Lansverk was involved in numerous organizations, including the PTA, Share and the Greater Vancouver Interfaith Association. She served as a preschool vision screening organizer and a Campfire Council president.

1980 – Helen Dygert

A founder of the Council for the Homeless and one of the Clark College Foundation’s developers, Dygert’s extensive community service has included a chairmanship of the Washington State Board of Health. She was a Clark College-YWCA Clark County Women of Achievement Honoree in 1989.

1981 – John Priel

Former president of First Federal Savings & Loan, Priel served on many boards, including the Elahan Center for Mental Health and Family Living board, the Southwest Washington Hospital Services Board and the Vancouver Salvation Army Board. He was on the Clark County Employment and Training Council, involved with the Chamber of Commerce, the American Red Cross, in a Boy Scouts of America leadership group and was a Fort Vancouver Lions Club president.

1982 – Robert B.J. Bjodstrup

A public relations specialist for Vancouver Savings & Loan, Bjodstrup’s skills as an archivist and record keeper were valued by the Vancouver Rotary Club. He was club president from 1981-1982.

1983 – Harvey O. Flansburg

After earning a master’s degree from the University of Washington, Flansburg moved to Vancouver, where he taught music for the Vancouver School District for 40 years. Flansburg was the organizing manager of the Greater Vancouver All-Church Choir Festival for 20 years.

1984 – Sally Schaefer

A past member of the Clark College Board of Trustees, the former educator has given her time and expertise to numerous causes benefiting schools, children, churches, the arts, higher education and social service groups. Schaefer was named Trustee of the Year in 2000 by the Washington State Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges and serves on the Southwest Washington Medical Center Foundation Board of Directors.

1985 – Barbara Marshall

Marshall’s long and varied volunteering included American Red Cross blood drives, tap dancing to lift nursing home residents’ spirits and numerous fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society. The ACS’s local fund-raising store was renamed the Barbara Marshall American Cancer Society Discovery Shop, in her memory, in 1997.

1986 – Helen Raymond

A tireless advocate for children’s and women’s organizations and the elderly, Raymond was a FVRL board trustee from 1967-1978. In 1993, she was a Clark College-YWCA Clark County Women of Achievement Honoree.

1987 – Mary Granger

Founder of Women in Action, in 1995, Granger organized a group of local benefactors to sponsor an “I Have a Dream” class of 64 students at Washington Elementary as they made their way through high school and college.

1988 – Arch Miller

Founder of International Air & Hospitality Academy, Miller served three terms as a Port of Vancouver commissioner. He is a director of Southwest Washington Friends of Baseball.

1989 – Transition year, no award.

1990 – Sam Beall

A former internist, Dr. Beall was one of the driving forces behind the founding the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington in 1990. A longtime volunteer for American Heart Association fund raising events, in 2001 Beall was honored by the Vancouver Rotary Club’s Vocational Service Committee with its 2001 Service Above Self award.

1991 – George Propstra

Burgerville founder and legendary philanthropist, Propstra’s gifts to southwest Washington provided handicapped-accessible school playground equipment, helped build community swimming pools, a grand baseball stadium and a community plaza. A champion of education and an advocate for children, he participated in the “I Have a Dream” program.

1992 – Ed and Dollie Lynch

The Lynches were the first couple to share First Citizen honors. The Lynches are often mentioned as sources of inspiration for other local philanthropists. The Lynches’ substantial donations to the community include $1 million to the Southwest Washington Medical Center Foundation in 2006. Ed was on the Southwest Washington Medical Center board from 1985 to 1995 and Dollie was a fundraising committee member of the hospital’s foundation. The couple was named “Washington Generals” by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen in recognition of the many contributions the Lynches have made to the community.

1993 – Harriet Wilson

Active with the Clark College Foundation for more than a decade, Wilson helped spearhead a campaign raising more than $6 million for the foundation. She also co-chaired the campaign to raise funds to build the Goodwill Training Center and served on the Council for the Homeless.

1994 – Joanne and Bob Kendall

The Kendalls were the driving force behind an Open House Ministries campaign to raise $2.5 million for a 107-bed shelter. Bob, a longtime Chevrolet dealer, was a Port of Vancouver commissioner and a longtime Greater Clark County Rotary Club member.

1995 – Bruce E. Hagensen

A former Vancouver city councilman and mayor, Officers Row renovations, the city’s Waterfront Renaissance, Celebrate Freedom and a campaign to build a museum at Pearson Field are a few of Hagensen’s many civic contributions.

1996 – Allan Weinstein

Weinstein helped found Southwest Washington Independent Forward Thrust (SWIFT), was an initiator of fundraisers for the YWCA and supporter of local food banks. President of the former Vancouver Furniture, Weinstein donated beds and furniture to homeless shelters.

1997 – Raymond Hickey

Hickey’s achievements span a wide spectrum ranging from supporting youth education and recreation to being a generous supporter of the YWCA. A longtime Boy Scout leader and past president of Tidewater Barge Lines Inc., Hickey helped change the face of Vancouver’s waterfront.

1998 – Paul Christensen

Founder of Realvest Corp., Christensen has served on the boards of Identity Clark County, One Place Across Time, Leadership Clark County and the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington. Founder of the Hough Foundation, and has been affiliated with Columbia River Economic Development Council, Community Housing Resource Center, Downtown Vancouver Association and other agencies and organizations. He was instrumental in raising $1.8 million to build Vancouver’s Goodwill store and training center.

1999 – John Marshall

Marshall served for years as unpaid Executive Director of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve Trust. With his grant writing and fundraising skills, he helped bring the Nihonga art exhibit and the Medal of Honor convention to Vancouver. Marshall was a longtime manager of the Vancouver Tennis Center.

2000 – Leslie Durst

A prominent supporter of the arts, Durst’s donations include $1 million toward the development of the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics in the early 1990s. She has been a member of the Community Foundation Board, supporter of I Have A Dream classes, volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary, an instructor for American Red Cross, and a “lunch buddy” for local students.

2001 – Al Bauer

The former teacher became known as “Senator Education” during his 20 years in the state Senate, which followed 10 years as a state representative. Bauer spearheaded statewide initiatives to reduce class sizes, increase support for rural school districts and to create a telecommunications network that links the state’s education systems. A Navy veteran, Bauer has been active with the American Legion, the Greater Vancouver Kiwanis Club and the Salmon Creek Grange.

2002 – Transition year from fall to spring ceremony, no award


2003 – Vern Peterson

Founder of the accounting firm Peterson and Associates, Peterson’s civic activities have included advocacy for affordable housing, work with the Clark County Historical Society, the Vancouver National Historic Reserve Trust and the Clark College Foundation board.

2004 – Scott Horenstein

An advocate for the Boys and Girls Club, Horenstein has helped raise more than $1 million to provide after-school programming for children. An attorney, he served on the Clark County Fair Board and on Identity Clark County’s board of directors. He has also campaigned on behalf of school levies and bonds and for community swimming pools.

2005 – Steve & Jan Oliva

Since opening the first Hi-School Pharmacy store in downtown Vancouver in 1967, the Olivas have donated time, energy and money to numerous community causes and organizations, including area schools, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, the Clark College Foundation and the Vancouver Women’s Foundation.

2006 – Val Ogden

A lifelong advocate for children, women and the poor, Ogden served 12 years in the state House of Representatives. Her work for nonprofits has included the YWCA and the Camp Fire organization. She was instrumental in the creation of Vancouver’s waterfront trail system, and a resource center at the Washington State School for the Blind bears her name. With husband Dan, Ogden established an endowment for graduate students in public affairs at Washington State University Vancouver.

2007 – John White

A land use consultant, White has had a hand in the community’s development in recent decades, including modernizing downtown Vancouver and the location and construction of WSU Vancouver’s campus. White is a member of the Clark College board of trustees, is on the board of directors of Southwest Washington Medical Center, has served on the Clark County Family YMCA Board of Managers and has held leadership roles with several organizations, including the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

2008 – Mark Matthias

Owner of Beaches Restaurant and Bar, through the Beaches Charity Fund, Matthias and his team help the community in a myriad of ways, including many programs benefiting local schools and children in need. Matthias is a board member of the Vancouver School District Foundation and is on the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Washington board of directors.

2009 – Florence Wager

As a community board member and volunteer, Florence Wager has had tremendous influence on the landscape of Clark County and the City of Vancouver. Her successful advocacy for new parks, community centers, trails, health and fitness over the past 20 years has resulted in a remarkable number of community assets and programs. She played an instrumental role in the renovation of Esther Short Park, the Parks Legacy Program, the Greater Clark Parks District, Chelatchie Rail-Trail project, Firstenburg Community Center and renovated Marshall Community Center, to name just a few of the many projects she has impacted.

2010 – Royce Pollard

Vancouver’s former mayor, Royce’s positive attitude and tireless advocacy to create a thriving city have made us proud to be “America’s Vancouver.”

2011 – H. A. “Hal” Dengerink

As the founding Chancellor of Washington State University Vancouver, Dengerink dramatically increased the availability of higher education in southwest Washington. He also served on the Board of Directors for the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and was one of the early leaders in advancing the plans for a new I-5 Columbia River Crossing project. In addition, he influenced our region through leadership roles with several organizations, including the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Vancouver National Trust and the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

2012 – Patricia “Pat” Jollota

Serving 20 years as a Vancouver City Councilor secured Pat Jollota’s reputation as a dedicated public servant. During her tenure, she championed public safety issues alongside local police officials and raised funds to equip local fire departments with thermal helmet cameras. Jollota also acted as Curator for the Clark County Historical Museum for 20 years, retiring only to become our city’s unofficial historian emeritus. Still, her most personally rewarding moments came while advocating for the safety of abused children with organizations like the Children’s Justice Center and Justice for Children.

2013 – Robert “Bob” Schaefer

Bob Schaefer wove civic involvement into his life, and Vancouver was fortunate to be his home. His career in public office began as the county’s Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and ended as Washington State Speaker of the House. During his long career, Schaefer was instrumental in establishing local state parks. Through his private practice he nurtured our technology industry, grew development east of Interstate 205 and advanced higher education locally. With each accomplishment, he built a reputation for integrity, fair-mindedness and collaboration.

2014 – Twyla Barnes

Barnes’ led the Educational Service District 112 for two decades, focusing on equity for all 30 school districts in southwest Washington. During this time, she inspired fellow leaders and those of the future-her students. Outside education, Twyla served on numerous local nonprofit boards and also contributed to local, state and national committees, including a role as special adviser to the U.S. Department of Education. Steadfast through it all was her ability to lead with class and a friendly, positive attitude.


2015 – Nan Henriksen

The first woman elected mayor of Camas, Nan became known for her visionary economic and community planning efforts. She was a leader in reshaping our region’s socioeconomic fabric and brought some of the first high-tech firms to Clark County. All the while, Henriksen raised a family, ran a small business and frequently volunteered. She later led planning efforts at the state level and applied her amazing mediation skills to pass a home-rule charter that modernized our form of county government.


2016 – Robert K. Knight

After two decades of service with the U.S. Army, Knight became commander of the Vancouver Barracks and played a pivotal role in transitioning the base into the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. In 2004, he joined Clark College and soon became president where he led a number of great accomplishments. Bob also volunteered countless hours to local health and economic organizations, and helped organize community events like Vancouver’s 150th anniversary, the George C. Marshall Lecture Series and numerous military commemorations.

2017 – Larry J. Smith

A longtime Vancouver city councilmember who also spent a quarter century serving in the U.S. Army. Smith’s extensive list of community involvement included co-founding the Community Military Appreciation Committee and the Parks Foundation of Clark County, which have respectively benefited local veterans and children. His leadership as a city employee and board member also advanced a number of community resources, including the Firstenburg Community Center, The Historic Trust and Propstra Square at Esther Short Park.

2018 – Transition year, no award


2019 – Ed Barnes

After serving as a private during the Korean conflict, U.S. Army veteran Ed Barnes enjoyed a career with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union. He served as business manager and financial secretary for Local No. 48 for 12 years and retired in 1996. The time he clocked serving his community is just as impressive – building the United Methodist Church in the Shumway neighborhood, serving as the state’s Transportation Commissioner and chairing the I-5 Corridor Committee, serving on a variety of boards including Ronald McDonald House and Open House Ministries Housing Project – to name a few. Barnes has spent his life giving back to Clark County and its residents.