Each year the City of Rock Island invites the public to nominate Rock Island businesses, professionals, educators, and individuals for the Citizen of the Year Awards.
Each year the City of Rock Island invites the public to nominate Rock Island businesses, professionals, educators, and individuals for the Citizen of the Year Awards. The City is pleased to announce the 2018 winners as examples of everyday people who participate in the life of Rock Island to improve conditions and shape its future. Each see themselves as part of the fabric of our City and all share the qualities of having the motivation, skills and ability to make a difference. A reception will be held at 6:15 p.m. prior to the City Council meeting on August 27 to honor these recipients. During the August 27 City Council meeting, the overall 2018 Rock Island “Citizen of the Year” will be announced and will serve as Grand Marshal of the Labor Day Parade on Monday, September 3, 2018. Marking its 34th year, the Rock Island Labor Day Parade is recognized as one of the best in our region.
Business Category – Pee Wee’s Restaurant
Open since March of 2017, Pee Wee’s Restaurant has become a staple on 9th Street and 21st Avenue in Rock Island’s West-End neighborhoods and business districts. Located in a spectacularly rehabilitated property at 2035 Martin Luther King Drive (9th Street), Pee Wee’s is known for its delicious Cajun- and southern-influenced menu. Business owner Will Clay is proud of his success and wants to contribute to the growing revitalization of Rock Island’s western neighborhoods. Named after Mr. Clay’s father, Wayland “Pee Wee” Clay Sr., the restaurant continues to grow and is an often-visited establishment for church, social & school groups, neighborhood patrons and those looking for a fresh & home-cooked meal.
Education Category – Alexis DeWilde
Born and raised in Rock Island, Alexis knew at an early age that Rocky schools got a bad reputation from others. She also knew that many of her neighbors and friends didn’t have the family and life support she had. So after college graduation, with a teaching certificate in hand, she came back to Rock Island to teach with the goal to make a difference in the lives of others. Twenty years later, Alexis is still doing just that. She has taught in five elementary schools and currently teaches at Ridgewood Elementary School. Her passion is working with students, and creating an atmosphere where they can not only learn, but thrive. Meeting her students where they are, she inspires them to believe in themselves and go further than their imaginations. This fall, Alexis said goodbye to four of her former students who she stayed in touch with throughout their education at Rocky. All four are first in their families to go to college and attest that it would not have happened if it were not for Ms. DeWilde, supporting, pushing, and caring for them along the way.
Education Category – Mary Kmoch
Ask anyone at Thurgood Marshall Learning Center to name a teacher who is a driving force of change and inspiration, Mary Knoch’s name appears first on the list every time. Mary is known to involve all of her students in community service projects. She believes that her students have a duty to contribute to society and to ensure this will happen throughout their life she brings her kids to the community and the community to her kids. Practicing what she preaches, after Mary’s children were grown and off to college, she moved from Geneseo to Rock Island because she wanted to live and be active in the community where her students lived. She is a member of the Rock Island NAACP, Black Hawk Reading Council, Community Caring Conference and the Rock Island Education Association. Mary’s passion for giving hope and a positive future for the at-risk youth is evident in her care, teaching and opportunities she creates each day for her students to thrive and lead.
Individual Category – Eudell Watts III
A lifelong resident of Rock Island, Eudell Watts’ list of involvement and activities are too long to list. From a young age his involvement in the Catholic Church instilled in him a love for social justice. He was the youngest member, and only African American, of the committee that established the Franciscan Hospital in Rock Island. When there were race riots in downtown Rock Island, Eudell was on the front lines brokering peace and calling for civility. He has owned and operated a local business, Old Arthur’s BBQ Sauce, for many years which has afforded him the ability to establish an endowment at the Rock Island Library in memory of his mother, Lorene, a lover of books and children. Through his fundraising efforts, the fund has over $35,000 and is used to purchase children’s books for the library. As a member of the Rock Island/East Moline Optimist Club, a volunteer at the weekly St. Joseph Evening Meal at the Rock Island Township Hall, and a member of Sacred Heart Parish, Eudell teaches us all what it means to serve others.
Professional Category – Ray Lind
When the City of Rock Island recently updated its Fire & Building Code requirements, many realtors argued against the decision. When the relationship between the City & the Real Estate community continued to enflame, one realtor made a particular effort to work with the City to ease the disagreement. Ray Lind is a lifelong Rock Island resident and realtor with Ruhl & Ruhl. By inviting Council members to attend realtor meetings and by accepting invitations from Council members to attend Rock Island neighborhood and civic organization meetings, Ray has demonstrated his commitment to working through disagreements and selling Rock Island properties. Combined with his many philanthropic efforts including coaching youth sports, missionary work and volunteering time with Hospice patients, Mr. Lind exemplifies the hardworking determination and civic spirit of the City of Rock Island.
City Employee Category – Patrick O’Brien
When aldermen get calls from constituents regarding sidewalks or sewer issues, Patrick O’Brien as the City’s Public Works Utilities Maintenance Supervisor, is the one to visit with the constituent and reassure them the problem will get resolved. He strives to make the best impression for the City’s residents. A lifelong resident of Rock Island, Patrick says he would never leave Rock Island. Patrick is an Army veteran of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm and is also a volunteer extraordinaire. As a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, he has served in the past as the Council President and Youth and Family Ministry coordinator. An IHSA Track, Field and Cross Country official for five years, Patrick is now a mentor to youth to make them better people for the future. He has also served as the past Chairman of the East End Neighborhood Fair. Spending time with his wife and three daughters is very important to him, but he also enjoys being the lead singer for a country/classic rock band “Boot Hill.”
Organization Category – Broadway Historical District Association
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the Broadway Historic District Association has been working to revitalize and preserve Rock Island’s premier historic Victorian-era neighborhood for decades. Thanks to the work of the non-profit historic preservation organization and ad-hoc neighborhood association, several of the 550 homes making up the Broadway collection have benefited from renovation and historic designation. The association was instrumental in listing the Broadway Neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and being included in publications such as Midwest Living and This Old House Magazines. The organization continues to undertake its nationally recognized “Great Unveiling” program, where artificial siding is removed from historic homes, along with many other educational, civic and social events.
Youth Category – Jada Veasey
Jada, a recent graduate of Rock Island High School, was President during her senior year, a member of the National Honor Society, and the student member of the Rock Island-Milan school board for three years. Jada co-founded the Rock Island RIVETERS Group (Rock Island Voices Ensuring Their Equal Rights Are Secure). This advocacy group exposes young women to work in male-dominated fields. She also completed a year-long commitment of service activities as a debutante in the Quad City Negro Heritage Society Debutante Cotillion. Jada took many Advanced Placement and Honors classes, was an honor student for four years, and finished in the top ten of her graduating class. Jada was a member of the high school marching band, symphonic band, pit orchestra for school musicals and plays (and acted in them too), and a member of the Quad Cities Youth Symphony Orchestra. She earned her Certified Nursing Assistant certification during her senior year and will be attending Coe College in Cedar Rapids this fall. Jada believes Rock Island is a great community and wants to make it an ever better place to live and work.
Honorary Citizen Category (does not live in RI) – Dino and Tina Hayz (The Center for Living Arts)
Dino and Tina Hayz have operated The Center for Living Arts in Rock Island since 2006. Located in historic downtown Rock Island, The Center provides fall, spring and summer programs in singing dancing, acting, and performance training for children in grades 1-12. Each year over 4,500 people are welcomed by them to downtown Rock Island, to watch a performance, and patronize many of our downtown businesses while students rehearse. They have had many opportunities to move the Center over the years, but Dino and Tina remain committed to staying in Rock Island because, according to them, “Out of the other cities in the Quad Cities, Rock Island is the easiest to work with and goes out of its way to make us feel appreciated.”