For 16 years, John Williams has been contributing his political knowledge and expertise as mayor of Kenai to help the city grow and prosper. This year, a section of the community gave something back to Williams to thank him for his years of service.
The Kenai Elks Lodge awarded Williams its Citizen of the Year award.
"Each year the Kenai Elks Lodge tries to recognize one individual who, because of his or her contributions to community, has made Kenai a better place to live, work and raise our families," said Steve Stanton, exalter ruler of the Kenai Elks Lodge.
"During John's term of office he's had many capital project improvements to our community, such as the fire training center, senior housing, the Kenai visitors center, and the Challenger center.
"He's not the only one who has helped on those projects, but he was a big part of them and his commitment has made (Kenai) a much better place."
Along with a plaque from the national Elks organization, Williams received a dinner at the lodge in his honor and congratulatory letters from Sen. Ted Stevens, Rep. Don Young, Gov. Tony Knowles and many members of the state Legislature.
The Kenai Elks give out only one award at a time, and only when they feel someone is truly deserving of it. The last time the organization gave out the award was five years ago.
"It's not every year someone comes along who makes an impact on the officers of the lodge," said Karen Kester, past exalter ruler of the Kenai Elks. "Williams fits the mold; he's a leader.
"I know at times he can be contentious -- no one can argue that. He's definitely committed to his family and his church. He's been a good citizen of the city of Kenai and the state of Alaska, and he's done a lot to promote Kenai and the Kenai Peninsula and the state."
The lodge went to great lengths to keep the award a secret from Williams until it came time for the dinner.
"We were saying if we had to tell one more lie to the guy, we're all going to have to go to church," Kester said.
Their efforts were successful, because Williams said he was totally surprised.
He had been told the dinner was being held because the state president of the Elks was going to be there to discuss the statewide Elks program. But once the room started filling up, he got a little suspicions.
"I noticed the real common thread was that all of them were friends of mine," he said. "I thought to myself, 'Something is really wrong with this picture.'
"The final giveaway was when all my kids an grandkids started coming in. They don't attend unless something happens for the old man. But even then, I had no clue what it was all about."
About 65 of Williams' friends, family members, colleges and political associates attended the dinner.
"Everybody had a good time, Williams said. "There were a lot of stories told that probably should remain untold for the purpose of not embarrassing the mayor. I have been somewhat of a colorful character over the years."
Williams said he was honored to receive the award and thanked the Elks Lodge and his wife, Sharon, for supporting him in his mayoral role.
"It's very, very prestigious and a high honor for the lodge to do this," he said. "I'm the last one in the world who would have expected to receive such an honor. As a political figure, you're supposed to be doing your job, not out there looking for honor. ...
"I'm given credit for doing a lot more than I do simply because I'm the mayor. If not for all those who supported me, I wouldn't be receiving this award to begin with. I share this with all my supporters. It's really a community thing."
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