John Hern is Person of the Year

Miss Poulsbo Janna Murray escorts Dolph Jaeger to the podium to receive the Pearce Dressel Volunteer of the Year Award at Kiana Lodge Friday evening.  - Charles Melton/Staff Photo
Miss Poulsbo Janna Murray escorts Dolph Jaeger to the podium to receive the Pearce Dressel Volunteer of the Year Award at Kiana Lodge Friday evening.
— image credit: Charles Melton/Staff Photo

SUQUAMISH — John Hern was Detroit-bound after the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship Jan. 22. However, word of a very prestigious local award changed his plans.

Hern, who owns Courtesy Auto Group, was named the Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce’s 2005 Person of the Year Friday night during a formal ceremony at Kiana Lodge.

While he has long been synonymous with business success in Little Norway, discovering Poulsbo two decades ago was an accident — albeit a fortunate one — Hern told the crowd.

“We ended up on Viking Avenue and saw a Ford dealership that had gone out of business and I asked why one wouldn’t work here,” he said.

With the decision made to bring the dealership back to life, Hern said he had everything done except for putting a new sign in place and doing that meant attending a city council meeting.

“Viking Avenue at that time was a two-lane road with no sidewalks and nothing thriving,” he recalled.

However, the mayor at the time, June Atak, was committed to promoting business activity and getting things going, he said.

“I felt that it was a city that, in time, would change and that that change would benefit us all,” Hern said.

Now more than 20 years later, Viking Avenue has gone from two to four lanes, has a movie theater and a bevy of commercial activity, where pastures once were, he said.

“We have an excellent, excellent community,” he said.

Poulsbo has some of the brightest young business people anywhere and the city council does an exceptional job of charting the city’s course, he added.

Hern, who is responsible for the Third of July fireworks and has been a major donor to Olympic College and a host of charitable organizations, said he doesn’t give for the purpose of receiving recognition.

“I do them because in my heart I feel the community has been very, very good to me and I don’t hold back,” Hern said.

As Hern was being recognized for the numerous contributions he’s made, the spirit of longtime community volunteer Pearce Dressel was present throughout the evening as well.

In memory of Dressel and his efforts the chamber renamed its volunteer of the year award the Pearce Dressel Volunteer of the Year Award with Dolph Jaeger being its first recipient.

Dressel, who died last year, was the 2004 winner of the chamber’s Volunteer of the Year Award.

“Pearce Dressel touched many of our lives, if not all of us, at one time or another,” said event emcee Brad Camp.

Dressel’s wife, Alberta, thanked the chamber for remembering her late husband with the award.

“Thank you for giving Pearce the opportunity to work in this community and feel useful,” Alberta said.

Pearce was unhappy upon his retirement and was looking for a way to use his talents, she said.

“I told him I was moving to Poulsbo and that’s the best thing I ever did for him,” Alberta said.

In accepting the award, Jaeger, along with his faithful companion Bray, said there is a lot of satisfaction in being a volunteer.

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