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The Canby City Council presented former 25-year city councilor Walt Daniels, 88, with the Hometown Hero Award at its meeting on November 1, 2017.

DANIEL PEARSON - Walt Daniels says a few words of gratitutde standing in front of councilors (from left: Greg Parker, Tracie Hensley and Sarah Spoon.
One could compare Canby's Hometown Hero Award to the U.S. Medal of Freedom — it's only been awarded a handful of times, the last one coming in 2013 — and is presented to citizens who have demonstrated an exemplary difference in the community.

For three decades, Daniels has participated in the Canby Kiwanis club, the Canby City Council, the Canby Utility Board, the Canby Transit Board, as a Canby city parks advocate, a supporter of the Canby Public Library, a supporter of Canby Public Schools, and the list goes on, Mayor Brian Hodson said.

Former city councilor Rich Aires submitted a letter to the council that Mayor Hodson read in full into the public record, and Aires' letter, arguably, stated what was on the minds of most attendees that evening.

"There are a lot of words one could use to describe Mr. Walt Daniels," Aires letter said. "Gentlemen, community extraordinaire, community supporter, thoughtful, considerate, contributor, tireless, friend, statesman, respectful, and many more. But there's one descriptive word that sums up in Mr. Daniels' life in Canby and that's leadership. In my 20-plus years of living and working in Canby, I can think of no one who has contributed to this community and has asked for nothing in return."

Daniels said a few words after other members of the community took turns speaking at the microphone, explaining what Daniels personally meant to them.

"This is really a surprise, and it's quite an honor," Daniels said. "I had no idea (this was happening). (I may be retired but) just because you get out of office doesn't mean that you should get out into the woods. (You should) use those talents you've developed, and skills, to put them back into the community. Twenty-five years on the council was rewarding, so I decided to step down. So, I challenge all of those who have been on a council before, or anticipate that they want to — step forward and take that leadership role."

Daniels then stood with the plaque that now includes his name — the public can see it hanging in city hall — and various people took photos of Daniels surrounded by his family.

Daniels' wife of 59 years, Virginia, 84, said it was hard to keep the news from Daniels about the award — many people knew he was receiving the award and they managed to keep it a surprise for several weeks. She said she would describe Daniels as a hard worker who doesn't very often relax.

"He's always thinking of something to do," Virginia said.

Daniels' son, Scott, 58, said it was almost part of recreation for his father — to go to meetings — but that Daniels never missed a family function or event.

"It's obviously a great honor for him and for the family," Scott said. "He loves this town and I think he truly meant it when he said he did everything for the satisfaction of the town."

Daniel's youngest son, Ken, 52, said it was great to hear all the wonderful things people had to say about his father.

"Seeing it first-hand, it's great to see him being acknowledged like that," he said.

Daniels' daughter, Gayle Borgen, 56, said her father, for her, is a perfect example of person to strive to be.

"Not only in community activities. He's been that way as a father, too," Borgen said. "He is a handful of integrity."

Daniels himself said he thought the council chambers were full that night for people who wanted to talk about the city's proposed park maintenance fee. He was asked what stood out in his mind when he thinks back on his 25 years as a city councilor.

"I think seeing some of the progress," he said. "We developed the industrial park by working with some of the owners of the property. I think that's the key to leadership; working with others and finding their talents."

Daniels used to own Coast to Coast hardware on First Avenue downtown, which is where Rice Time currently is located. When the economy went to pieces in 1989, he and his family were forced to close the business, he said.

Daniels said what he likes most about Canby is the livability here — a word used often by city leaders.

"There is a camaraderie of people who support each other," Daniels said. "You go to the football game and you can see the town is really behind it. I hope we can keep that flavor moving forward. I think we can keep working at it."

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