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Whittaker named 2014 Wilsonville First Citizen


Kathryn Whittaker honored for her volunteer work in local schools and beyond

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Kathryn Whittaker, (left) accepts the 2014 Wilsonville First Citizen Award from Wilsonville Rotary President John Holley Saturday night at the Heart of Gold banquet at the Wilsonville Holiday Inn.Kathryn Whittaker didn’t quite know which way to turn.

Should she give her husband, Ken, a hug? Or should she congratulate fellow finalist Vern Wise, who was quickly approaching from the opposite direction?

In the end, she settled for a hug from Wise before turning and receiving a big kiss from her husband in front of several hundred people in the audience.

It’s okay to be slightly flustered, though, when you’ve just been labeled the most outstanding citizen of any community. And Whittaker was honored Saturday evening at the Wilsonville Rotary Club’s Heart of Gold banquet by being named the 2014 Wilsonville First Citizen.

“I was, as I say, just so honored and humbled by this,” Whittaker said after the banquet, which was held at the Wilsonville Holiday Inn and represents the primary fundraising effort of the year for Wilsonville Rotarians.

“The people who dedicate themselves to the community are amazing,” she said. “So to be called out as part of that community is humbling.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Kathryn Whittaker reacts with surprise and joy after hearing that she was selected as the 2014 Wilsonville First Citizen. Whittaker was selected as First Citizen from a field of finalists that also included Vern Wise, Leigh Crosby and Steve Perry, all prolific community servants with long track records of volunteer work.

“I think about that,” said Whittaker. “And I think about my family, not only my dad, who gave so much to his community, but my husband’s family, which has been in Wilsonville since …”

“1975,” chimed in her husband, Ken.

“To be part of that and to feel like I’ve become a part of the Wilsonville community is an honor to me,” she added. “And I feel very proud of it because the children who are with us in this community who work so hard in what they do, they can see how important it is to give back to the community you’re in. They see me around, and I’m glad they now see the connection and that it’s all part of the community.”

Whittaker is probably best known these days in the local community for her ongoing work with the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation. She served as the organization’s president from 2010 through 2013, helping to jumpstart a group that was lacking in energy. In that role, Whittaker not only provided leadership, she engaged primarily in the thankless job of fundraising.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - First Citizen nominee Vern Wise is all smiles at the Heart of Gold banquet Saturday at the Wilsonville Holiday Inn. One of her favorite activities currently is the annual mock congressional hearing held for students at Wood Middle School as part of a national competition that starts at the school level. Whittaker gave up a promising law career to stay home and raise her children, but she still holds close the values of her legal training.

Last summer she led a group of 29 Wood students to Washington D.C., where they took part in a national competition.

“I always volunteer for that on an annual basis,” she told the Spokesman. “I love to see the middle schoolers, the piece where they all have to look into the eyes of adults and have conversations and have a give and take. You lose a lot over texting and videos, and having a conversation and civil discourse to me is really important and sometimes missing from life these days. So to see all the eighth graders go through that is very powerful.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - First Citizen nominee Steve Perry is recognized Saturday at the Heart of Gold banquet at the Wilsonville Holiday Inn. Whittaker is currently preparing a return trip to D.C. with a different group of students. But the same motivation remains.

“Just the payoff for me was this week,” she said. “I had a student I was working with in eighth grade who really came through and did something terrific in preparing for their competition in Washington D.C., so when I see I can make some sort of impact or change the course of things in the community, they will hopefully do the same some day.”