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Russell Mack named Pemberton citizen of the year

Mack has relationship with Pemberton going back to 1958

Pemberton has named the fire chief as its Citizen of the Year for 2010.

Russell Mack, chief of Pemberton Fire Rescue and head of the Village of Pemberton's public works department, was named the community's favourite citizen at the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce's first annual "Academy Awards" at the Pemberton Legion on January 20. Other awards handed out included business of the year, the communtiiy service award and the new business of the year.

Reached on his cell phone Friday, Mack said it was an honour and a surprise to receive the award.

"It's a great honour obviously, especially with the people you're nominated against," he said. "Obviously somebody nominates you, so it was, just to be nominated with all those people is pretty great. They're all really good people and they do a lot of work in this community, so it's good."

Mack has worked in Pemberton for 15 years, staring out as chief of the fire department before taking up the reins at public works about nine years later, a job in which he is in charge of maintaining Village infrastructure such as sewer lines, parks, roads and sidewalks. He's now into his fifth year at the latter job.

He began coming out to Pemberton in 1958, two years after his aunt and uncle bought a farm about four kilometers up the Pemberton Valley. He used to spend summers on the farm, meeting up with relatives and friends he maintains to this day.

He moved to Pemberton in 1991 while he still held a job at the Richmond Fire Department about 169 kilometres away. For about four years he'd drive back and forth to work all the way there.

"It wasn't bad at all," Mack said. "You'd work two day shifts, come home. I don't mind driving, so it was good. And you know, you come home and it was just, yeah, a nice place. There's so much stuff to do here recreation-wise. The people are really nice."

His aunt and uncle's farm remains in the family. Today it's known as the Gilmore brothers' farm and there they grow seed potatoes and hay. The farm is also known for producing the winners of pumpkin-growing competitions in several consecutive years.

Other nominees in the category included George Henry, president of the Pemberton and District Museum Society; Mark Blundell, owner of the Pemberton Valley Supermarket; Garth Phare, a co-owner of Home Hardware in Pemberton; Anna Helmer and Nikki van Kerk, organizers of the Slow Food Cycle Sunday; and Stephanie Coughlin and Lizz Kelly for their work on Pemberton Winterfest.

Other "Academy Award" winners included Small Potatoes Bazaar, which received business of the year for the second year in a row. The store on Prospect Street provides a variety of products such as home and kitchenwares; seasonal and everyday party supplies; as well as toys, crafts and jewelry.

The community service award went to the Stewardship Pemberton Society, which is currently working to construct an Eco-Interpretive Centre on the northeast corner of One Mile Lake Park. The centre will host displays and learning opportunities that aim to promote biodiversity and sustainable behaviour. Displays will focus in particular on the Lillooet River watershed, drawing on First Nations traditional knowledge of the area.

The new business award went to Blackbird Bakery and the customer service award went to Deb Williamson at Small Potatoes Bazaar.