Stars shine bright at UH Civic Awards

With an assist from Cooper, JCU grad and 19 News reporter Rachel Vadaj hosted the 2023 University Heights Civic Awards.

Music, applause, hugs, and laughter—as well as many University Heights residents—filled John Carroll University’s (JCU) Jardine Room on Nov. 15 for the 2023 UH Civic Awards.

In his opening remarks, Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan said, “We brought back the Civic Awards in 2018 because it is important to take time to celebrate our community, and give recognition where it is deserved, to amplify and tell the story of the people who make a difference in the community. 

“So much of life is ephemeral and impermanent. We pause to remember tonight, in hopes that we may never forget.”

The event was hosted by JCU graduate and 19 News reporter Rachel Vadaj.

"University Heights is not just my home away from home because John Carroll is my alma mater—it's the warmth I feel in my heart from the welcoming kindness of its leaders and residents,” Vadaj said. “I hope the well-deserving award winners and talented performers will cherish the evening as much as I will!"

The University Heights Service Department was named City Employees of the Year. In introducing the department, Brennan said he always believed in them, and what they do.

“I believed in their effort, and every day they show up and validate that belief through their labor, through their heart, through their sweat,” Brennan said. “They literally embody what it means to put your back into your living. . . . I have never been more proud to have on our team here at City Hall the entire University Heights Service Department—our 2023 University Heights Employees of the Year.”

State Rep. Juanita O. Brent earned “Public Servant of the Year” honors, and Charter Review Commission members Lee Crumrine and Chris Myrick were named “Volunteer of the Year” and “Citizen of the Year,” respectively.

Sally Mascia took home the “Educator of the Year” award, and Police Lt. Todd Kinley was named City Co-Worker of the Year for his 35 years of service.

Good Neighbor Awards were presented to the following:

  • Primoz Pizza, for its support of local events and the creation of the “Mr. Cooper” pizza;
  • Robin VanLear, for her work on the UH Memorial Day Parade;
  • Chocolate Emporium, for its sustainability efforts;
  • Heights High Academic Challenge Team, for winning the 2023 Academic Challenge Tournament;
  • Krystof Juncho of Dollar Bank, for financial support of the Juneteenth Celebration and Fall Fest;
  • Rabbi Elle Muhlbaum, for earning Cleveland Jewish News’ “12 under 36” recognition;
  • Alexandra Fleksher of “Faces of Orthodoxy,” for her work to dispel negative stereotypes;
  • Dan Plato, for his work on the Gesu Bolt fundraiser.

Hartley Love of the city’s Beautiful Homes Committee presented this year’s awards for homes, in categories including Curb Appeal, Sit a Spell, Best Front Door, and Green Home.

New this year was the “Good Stewardship” award, presented to homeowners who have lived in their homes for 20 years or more. This award celebrates homes that are well-maintained, have attractive landscaping, and are an asset to the neighborhood.

Guests were not only treated to seeing friends and neighbors receive awards, but were also entertained by local artists.

The Mal Barron Trio entertained attendees during the pre-awards reception. During the ceremony, Heights Poet Laureate Siaara Freeman performed an original poem about University Heights. The Heights High Barber Shoppers performed three songs. And, to top off the evening, Beaumont School senior and Rising Star CLE 2023 Champion Lauren Ravas performed “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Deanna Bremer Fisher, the city’s special projects coordinator, observed that this year’s ceremony was special. “It really makes you proud to be part of a community that not only has so many stars who are doing great things, but to work for a City Hall that makes the effort to celebrate those achievements,” she said.

Mike Cook

Mike Cook is the communications and civic engagement director for University Heights.

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Volume 17, Issue 1, Posted 5:45 PM, 11.25.2023