CLEARWATER — Every year for the last half-century, one worthy person has been named Mr. or Mrs. Clearwater.
It's the most prestigious award given by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. It recognizes exceptional community service. And the title has a lot of history — past honorees include Jack Eckerd, Dr. William Hale, Dan Carlisle, Gus Stavros, Charles Rutenberg and Ed Droste.
But for whatever reason, the chamber isn't getting many nominations for this award anymore. They hope to get more in the next few weeks.
We talked to Alan Bomstein, who was Mr. Clearwater in 1991 and is a member of the award's selection committee.
Why are you getting fewer nominations?
It seems as though in recent years there has been less of an interest. We send direct mail to every local not-for-profit organization seeking nominations. I don't know whether they're too preoccupied with other things. But I'm sure there's still significant leadership in this community.
What are the criteria to be Mr. or Mrs. Clearwater?
This person is active in civic affairs and organizations, performs voluntary services not pertaining to his or her business or profession, and could represent Clearwater with distinction. The nominee should not hold a public office and lives within the greater Clearwater area.
So does this person have to be a local big shot?
No. It goes beyond those who have a big public profile. People might think, "Oh, it'll probably be a former chamber president or somebody like that," but that's not the case.
Ray Murray (Mr. Clearwater 2005), through his philanthropy, has quietly endowed more things than anyone could possibly imagine. Fred Casale (the 1986 honoree) personified the role of Clearwater's "Officer Friendly" — the guy was so good at being outgoing.
Otis and Barbara Green (1998) made their Homeless Emergency Project a permanent fixture in this town by themselves, with little help. Marion Rich (2003) is a volunteer who's done a lot of good in the community.
This award is given at the chamber's annual banquet in January, and the winner isn't told about it beforehand. Do they really not know?
It is always a surprise. I do not know, in my lifetime, anyone who had a clue they were going to get it. They're invariably shocked. Their family's offstage, waiting in the wings.
What's it like to win?
I've received a lot of awards over the years, and the Mr. Clearwater designation always surfaces to the top. There are people who see me on the street and say, "Hey, it's Mr. Clearwater." It's one of the things that sticks to you. The title has a lot of glue.
What are you really looking for?
The ultimate criteria is, this is somebody who has left a mark in this community. This is a better place because they were here.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4160.