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Willie Poinsette, co-founder of Respond to Racism, named Community Leader of the Year; Mike Buck earned Bob Bigelow Award for Lifetime Achievement

PMG PHOTO: J. BRIAN MONIHAN  - Willie Poinsette, the co-founder of the Respond to Racism group and co-chair of Lake Oswego's 50+ advisory board, was honored Saturday, March 16, as the Chamber of Commerce's Community Leader of the Year.  Willie Poinsette said she was "quite honored and quite surprised" when she was named Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce's Community Leader of the Year at the annual Celebration of Excellence dinner and auction at the Oregon Golf Club March 16.

But Poinsette, a 32-year resident of Lake Oswego who co-founded the Respond to Racism group and co-chairs the City's 50+ advisory board, also took an opportunity during her acceptance speech to challenge Chamber members and the community at large.

Specifically, Poinsette — who is African-American — said that for much of her three-plus decades in Lake Oswego, she felt invisible within the community. She lauded the Chamber and City officials for progress made in recent years, but took note of the lack of diversity among those who crowded into a large tented area for the ceremony.

"I did share that I was invisible most of the time, and my son went through school here and it wasn't easy," Poinsette said in an interview following the ceremony. "I wasn't recognized as a person. I couldn't go to the store — and still can't — and find products for my hair, Band-Aids for a certain skin tone, there's not a place I can find to do my hair. So my call was for the Chamber to extend its outreach and get other businesses involved.

"There are other people of color living here — and not just black people. We need to acknowledge that the city is not what it used to be."

Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker introduced Poinsette, who followed in the footsteps of 2018 Community Leader of the Year winner Dr. Keith Dickerson.

"From her days growing up in South Carolina during the Jim Crow era, she experienced daily what some of us have only seen or heard about in documentaries. The KKK was a reality — frequently riding through her neighborhood, terrorizing her family, friends and her neighbors," Studebaker said. "That experience alone could have made anyone jaded, bitter and unsettled, but it only motivated and prompted our friend to serve and protect, to teach and to heal."

Studebaker said Respond to Racism has had a profound impact on Lake Oswego.

"For nearly two years, Respond to Racism has been educating our community on the devastating effects of racism on society," he said. "She has not only brought injustices to light but has also helped provide real solutions to the problems we face locally."

Of course, Poinsette wasn't the only winner Saturday night as the Chamber celebrated its 78th year of handing out awards. The other big award, the Bob Bigelow Lifetime Achievement Award, went to Mike Buck.

The Bob Bigelow Award, named for the former Lake Oswego Review publisher and community leader who died in 2000, was presented by Friends of Bob Bigelow Co-Chair Peter Glazer.PMG PHOTO: J. BRIAN MONIHAN  - Mike Buck took home the Bob Bigelow Lifetime Achievement Award.

"One past mayor on our selection committee paid (Buck) the highest compliment: 'We did not always agree, but when an issue was contentious in the community, he calmed the rhetoric and helped out community decide the issue civilly and respectfully,'" Glazer said in his speech.

Buck, for his part, said he was honored to receive the award — especially given what he knew about past recipients.

"I virtually knew all the people who'd received it in the last 18 years, so to be in that company is a real honor. And in some ways it's a real challenge to live up to," Buck said in an interview after the ceremony.

He added that much of his recent work had been related to City projects, and not directly connected with the Chamber.

"I was pleased the Chamber would recognize that involvement and commitment that goes beyond their own self-promotion," he said.

Buck and his family are known, in part, for owning Gubanc's Restaurant.

"Many of us knew him as the face of Gubanc's (Restaurant) for three decades," Glazer said. "He ran Gubanc's like a community asset, a favorite gathering place. He was more concerned about serving customers and being a good boss to his employees than expansion and maximizing profit."

But beyond Gubanc's, Buck also serves as current chair of the Friends of Iron Mountain and is the past chair of the Lake Grove Business Association. He chaired the Lake Oswego Tree Code Task Force in 2013 and 2014, a role that might sound fairly innocuous if you've never stepped foot in Lake Oswego.

"You don't get appointed to chair a task force on a hot button issue like this if you are not a great listener and highly respected leader," Glazer said.

As Glazer noted, Buck is also a member of the Lake Grove Neighborhood Association, the co-chair of a project advisory committee for the City's Boones Ferry Road Project and secretary for the Oswego Lake Watershed Council.

"He is a hands-on guy who knows how to motivate others," Glazer said.

Buck also won the Chamber's Community Leader of the Year Award in 2015. But he said his name on a plaque is not what really matters.

"What's important is not that our names are remembered, but what we worked on — what we loved and what we cherished," he said.

The full list of winners was as follows:

C. Herald Campbell Heritage Award: Jeannie McGuire

Networker of the Year: Ticia Symonds

Rookie of the Year: Salt & Straw

Headlee Beautification Award: PHK Development Inc./The Windward

Chamber Champions: Luminary Gatherings

Arts Council Fortuna Award: Bob Liddell

Denton Small Business of the Year: Metke Remodeling and Luxury Homes

Academic Excellence Award: Dr. Michael Musick

Lakewood Center for the Performing Arts Kay Vega Award: Dr. Bill Korach and Dr. Ricky Korach

Denton Large Business of the Year: Shorenstein Properties/Kruse Woods Corporate Park

Leadership LO Sextant Award: Dr. Scott Lazenby

Bob Bigelow Lifetime Achievement Award: Mike Buck

Community Leader of the Year Award: Willie B. Poinsette

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