By Meg Upton
“Even before the fire, we were thinking of naming this person Community Member of the Year. Then the fire came…” Rotary President John Banks, in his American Legion uniform, got a bit choked up as he began to announce the recipient of the 2021 Rotary Club’s Community Member of the Year award. Banks had spent the morning as post commander leading the Memorial Day ceremonies at most of the cemeteries in Indian Valley. Now, at the luncheon sponsored by the Legion and supported by the Rotary, he commenced with his final duty of the day.
Typically Community Member of the Year is awarded in December of each year. But with the Dixie Fire and the displacement of many community members including both Legion and Rotary Club members, the task had proved impossible to complete in 2021. Banks, who cycles out of the presidency June 30, wanted to get the award given out by Memorial Day.
“The award goes to someone who exhibits qualities above and beyond typical community service,” said Banks, “and it’s going to a veteran too. This year’s award goes to Sheriff Todd Johns.”
There were thunderous applause and tears as both Banks—who lost his house in the fire—and others acknowledged the humungous role Johns played in keeping people safe. There was no loss of life in Indian Valley from the Dixie Fire and many Indian Valley residents credit Sheriff Johns leadership as to the reason why.
Johns stood up from one of the burned benches most of the luncheon goers were seated at and stood beside Banks to accept his plaque. Rotary also brought him a red, white, and blue patriotic quilt made for him by community members.
“I accept this on behalf of all my staff, everyone who had a hand in this,” said Johns, visibly both appreciative and choked up himself. He spoke of all the people who helped on the ground in the days of the fire. He thanked everyone and stood to another round of applause and thanks.