It was fun to watch Russ Tripp get well-deserved honors Saturday night at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce's Distinguished Service Awards banquet.
Tripp, the longtime civic booster and three-term Albany mayor, was the winner of the chamber's first Legacy Award, meant to honor an individual who has given a lifetime of service to the community. It was an award that Tripp and his wife, Duffy, have earned many times over.
Russ Tripp himself had some fun with the honor, joking that he's more likely these days to be recognized as that guy who walks through town wearing a variety of hats — a joke he punctuated with a show-stealing bit in which he modeled many of those hats.
The bit also served to symbolize some of the many hats that Tripp has worn during a lifetime of service to the community.
It also was fun to watch many of the evening's other honorees pay tribute to the Tripps during their own acceptance speeches — and it got us thinking again about the power of this kind of civic leadership and how important it is to our communities.
So Jay Burcham, the owner of Burcham's Metals, winner of one of the two Distinguished Service Awards given out Saturday night, pointed to the Tripps as inspiration for his own far-reaching community work: "The Tripps have continued to serve," Burcham said, "and that's what I want to do. They have set the bar very high."
And Greg Hamann, the president of Linn-Benton Community College (honored as the large business of the year), pointed to Russ Tripp's work as mayor of Albany (and as a longtime member of LBCC's board) as being essential to placing the college's primary campus in Albany and in helping it develop through its first years of operation. (The Tripps' commitment to LBCC has endured over the decades; they helped to fund a major renovation of the college's main performance space.)
"I want to thank Russ Tripp for getting this whole thing started," Hamann said during his acceptance remarks. "Russ, this is for you, too."
After the banquet, the 91-year-old Tripp seemed to shrug off some of the accolades that came his way during the evening. "I guess if you just live long enough," he joked, you can make a difference in the community.
Well, longevity can help, to be sure. But it's not an essential ingredient.
Similarly, even though Jay Burcham aspires to match the high bar set by the Tripps (and has a good shot at doing just that), that's not necessary, either.
What matters is finding that one thing that fires your passion and that can help to make your community a better place. Maybe that one thing leads to others; in fact, as the resumes racked up by Saturday night's winners and finalists clearly show, that's what usually happens.
But even if it doesn't, getting involved in that one thing still gives you a chance to make your mark in the community. And, if you multiply that one thing by the efforts of thousands of citizens, the result is a powerful force for a better community.
That powerful force is an essential part of successful communities. All of the winners and nominees honored at Saturday's banquet have contributed to that force for years. Many of the winners noted that the awards themselves could have gone to many of the people gathered at the banquet.
(We liked how Kristal Dufour, winner of the Jim Linhart First Citizen Award, told the banquet attendees on Saturday night: "I've discovered that Albany is an amazing community filled with people like you.")
Most of us won't be able to match Russ and Duffy Tripp's record of service to the community. But we can do that one thing that fires our passion and helps the community. So here's the question: What's your one thing? (mm)