Stars of Lake County (Jan. 28, 2004)

Regular readers of the Clearlake Record-Bee are certain to be familiar with the paper's sponsorship of the Stars of Lake County awards, the annual event that supposedly recognizes the best and brightest people and services Lake County has to offer. This upscale shindig is the way the well-to-do of our community take turns publicly acknowledging their fellow upper-crusters wonderfulness, with a crumb or two tossed to the common folk just to give the show a fig leaf of credibility. If you are pals with people like R-B publisher Judi Pollace and car dealer Kathy Fowler, you can get up on the stage with presenter Mike Thompson, who won't have any idea of who you are or what you've done unless you've cut him a fat contribution check recently. So what would a “Stars” show look like if it wasn't a rigged narcissist convention? This is how it could, and probably should appear:

#1. Man Of The Year: Eddie Lepp. Upper Lake's Eddie Lepp handed law enforcement yet another embarrassing setback last year when the CHP was forced to return his marijuana to him, the second time he's had the government give him back his dope. Harassed by the DEA, CHP and our own chickenshit Sheriff, Lepp has gone about his business of supplying Lake County's enormous number of chronically ill and suffering citizens with what is in some cases life-saving dope for years, with little financial reward and no official thanks.

#2. Woman Of The Year: Cynthia Parkhill. Yes, the meek, mousy editor of the Clearlake Observer deserves this award, in spite of her paper's abysmal reporting on local news events. While not gusty enough to tackle local matters in a meaningful way, Cynthia puts people like Jim Hightower and Greg Palast on the editorial page, and attended the big peace rallies as a participant — something many would not do for fear of losing their jobs. She's made the local right-wing bully boys howl, which means she must be doing something right.

#3. Large Business Of The Year: Grocery Outlet. Bruno's competes with Safeway, but both charge outrageous prices. Grocery Outlet is for the rest of us who can't afford the yuppie life-style. It takes some real consumer savvy to get the most from a store that features different merchandise every week, but once you get the hang of it you can save a bundle, oftentimes cutting you grocery bill by 30% or more.

#4. Small Business Of The Year: A lot of contenders here, and many deserve a medal for their perseverance and optimism. Gotta go with the Fast Stop market in Lakeport, for having the most courteous and friendly staff in the county, and how can you not love a place that sells live minnows and disc golfing accessories? Run by Fast Stop before you head to the theater down the street and you'll save enough to buy the popcorn, and miss the lines at the show.

#5. Youth Advocate Of The Year: Herb Gura. In a hotly contested race Herb was re-elected to the Konocti school board, and gave the district a fighting chance to get back on its feet after the Jim Johnson debacle. Herb has already served two terms and brings the board its most open-minded and honest member (Caroline Jarrett runs a close second), in addition to devoting an enormous amount of unpaid time and energy to the job over the years.

#6. Student Of The Year. Tons of runner-ups in this category, but no winner. This kind of award can be a curse, as it could be all down-hill from here. Any kid who gets far enough to be a contender has likely had plenty of help getting there, and probably doesn't need a shove to speed things along on the fast-track.

#7. Agriculture Award: Danny Goff. Smart enough to figure out that Lake County's pear packing sheds were for the most part run by cutthroats and back-stabbers, Goff does his own packing and marketing, and does it well. When the rest of the county's pear growers have all gone under Goff will still be there, because he was able to recognize the enemy and did something about it.

#8. Arts Person Of The Year: Christian Yeagan. When the Lake County Arts Council hit its lowest point and was in shambles, Christian stepped forward and picked up the pieces, a job no sane person would have attempted. Always upbeat and ready to help, Yeagan has to deal with cash problems, the Soper-Reese theater disaster and all the huge egos and weirdness found in the arts community. It's time for the county and city of Lakeport to acknowledge his work and give him some cash so the Soper-Reese can be something more than a hard to ignore monument to good intentions gone wrong.

#9. Volunteer Of The Year: Andy Weiss. Banned by the FCC from being on KPFZ's license because he ran pirate station “Radio Clandestino” out of his laundry room, Weiss worked behind the scenes to make community radio in Lake County a reality. KPFZ 104.5 owes its existence more to Weiss than any other of its fine staff of volunteers, and Andy can proudly claim to be the father of this marvelous asset to the entire community.

#10. Humanitarian Of The Year: Andy Rossoff. When the In Home Support Services advisory committee was being gutted by our county supervisors, one man stood-up and fought back with determination, intelligence and a calm demeanor. Every one of the thousands of elderly and disabled locals benefiting from the IHSS program has Andy to thank in part, and we should all be grateful that someone had the courage to challenge the cold-hearted and myopic supervisors.

#11. Senior Of The Year: Every local elderly person who donates their time and energy on behalf of their fellow citizens deserves this award, especially those who work to see that our seniors don't run short of food, companionship and care.

#12: Best Idea Of The Year: OK, OK, I'll admit it, the round-a-bout in Lakeport is a practical success, but does it have to be so tall you can't see the traffic on the other side? The good news is that there's no waiting and no expensive traffic lights to buy and maintain, and it's another spot that isn't covered with pavement that will look nice come Spring when the vegetation blooms.

#13. Organization Of The Year: KPFZ 104.5 FM. Easily the best thing that's happened to Lake County in years, this community radio station is as diverse as it gets. Republicans, Democrats, Greens and everyone else gets into the act, and where else can you get the local Native American viewpoint straight from the horse's mouth? Non-stop entertainment and information from all angles, and all without underwriting or commercials — what a deal!

#14. Lifetime Achievement: James Kovacs. Having fled the Nazi annihilation of his fellow Hungarian Jews, Kovacs wound up in Lake County (with a short stint in Anderson Valley) after leading an extraordinarily successful life in the legal profession where he personally wrote groundbreaking California state laws in the area of women's and children's rights. Senator Barbara Boxer got her start working for Kovacs and he was an ardent and vocal supporter of environmental causes right up until the day he died early last year. We all miss you, Jim!

#15. Local Hero Of The Year: Art Gotisar, Diane Codding and Kelly Bates. Two days before Christmas these three brave people lost their lives trying to save a man who tried to take his own, when their REACH helicopter crashed into a hillside near Redwood Valley. This crew had come to Lake County many times before, flying through hazardous terrain in some of the worst weather imaginable, putting their lives on the line far more often than even cops or firemen. Your bravery and selflessness will be remembered every time we hear that familiar whop-whop-whop in the middle of some dark and stormy night. Thank you, heroes! 

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