Mayor Sharon Konopa opened Wednesday's City Council meeting in the usual fashion — but within 30 minutes, she was in tears.
Konopa was given the Legacy Award by the Albany Landmarks Commission for her dedication to the city's historic buildings and sites.
The award, Konopa said, was a surprise.
"I am very humbled and honored to be recognized for my support of our historic preservation from our city Landmarks Commission," Konopa said Thursday. "I am truly grateful for their compassion and service in preserving our history."
Konopa, a lifelong Albany resident, has supported or spearheaded dozens of projects and restoration efforts throughout her 12 years as mayor and her years of service as a city councilor prior to her time with the gavel.
Most recently, she has supported the restoration of the Cumberland Church, helping a local nonprofit work to purchase the building from the city to restore. That effort was also recognized Wednesday night with an award for commercial restoration.
But Konopa's award was a new one — possibly one that won't be seen again.
"We have never given this award and we likely never will again," said Landmarks Commission member Bill Ryals, a longtime friend of Konopa's. "The award goes beyond dedication and sacrifice. Not only does she deserve our thanks for a lifetime of work, she deserves the thanks of generations to come."
Ryals cited the blight Albany experienced in the 1980s and the period of time that would see Albany either tilt into a home for big box stores and corporations or preserve its historic roots.
"Common wisdom held that we should just let our little historic town die quietly," Ryals said. "But not Sharon. She had a different vision. She believed in us, and soon we believed in her. She believed that we could do anything together. ... She has served us with a grace, a vision and a determination seldom seen in this world. She served with a grace that borders on nobility. She saved us. She is the best of us."
Konopa gave in to tears, thanking the commission before excusing herself from the meeting for a short period of time. When she returned, she urged the commission to continue advocating for Albany's history.
In November, Konopa narrowly lost her bid for another term as mayor to current City Councilor Alex Johnson II.
"Our historic structures are the character of our city," she said Thursday. "It takes not only me, but a village of supporters to preserve our past for where we are today and the future."
Also honored Wednesday night was Larry Preston, who received an award for excellence in outreach and education. Residential excellence awards were given to Paul and Mitzi Dykast and Mark and Tina Siegner for their restoration work on local homes.