Melanie Light to Receive Citizen of the Year Award

(Ken Light, Photographer)
Melanie Light will be honored as Citizen of the Year Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. at the Founders Auditorium of the Orinda Community Center, for her tireless work preparing Orinda residents, their property and their homes, to be safe from wildfires.

    With wildfires continuing to consume California’s countryside, it is fitting that Orinda’s Citizen of the Year is Melanie Light, Founder of the Orinda Firewise Council (OFC).  
   Light has worked tirelessly to prepare Orinda residents, their property and their homes to be safe as possible from potential destruction by wildfires.
   Orindans will gather to applaud Light and others at the Citizen of the Year banquet. It will be held in the Founders Auditorium of the Orinda Community Center Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. 
   The 2021 Citizen of the Year offers an example fire fighters would like more people to follow. Fire Chief Wannacker sounded the alarm two years ago when he explained that research showed there was a very real threat of wildfire to Orinda. He urged residents to form Firewise neighborhoods and reduce the fuel load on our properties.
   Motivated by his talk, Light stepped up immediately to host a community-wide get-together. The Orinda Firewise Council was formed. Inspired by Light’s leadership, Orinda has moved from one Firewise community to 26, which includes hundreds of homes.
   One of her nominating letters stated, “Melanie maintains our Firewise Council website and chairs our monthly meetings. She is a member of the Supplemental Sales Tax Oversight Committee and was a devoted campaigner for the successful passage of Measure R. She does all this, and more, unselfishly volunteering her time to make our City and its residents safer in the event of a wildfire.”
   Sue Severson, of the Orinda Community Foundation (which hosts the event) explained that there will be additional honorees at the banquet: “We are celebrating three Citizens of the Year because Covid delayed presenting the awards for the 2019 and 2020 winners, Peter Hasselman and Tom Trowbridge.” 
   Although 2020 is a year some would like to forget, it is important to remember Tom Trowbridge, chosen as Citizen of the Year for 2020. His contributions to the city are many, but he’s primarily recognized as a founder of Orinda Vision, along with 2019 awardee Peter Hasselman. Its mission is to define and implement a rational vision for the future of Orinda’s downtown.  
   The City Council and Planning Department has hired consultants and is on track to complete a Downtown Precise Plan in 2022. Trowbridge and Hasselman have devoted their time and talent all these years to making that happen. Trowbridge also served as president of the Orinda Country Club and as head of the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church Foundation.
   Severson added, “This year we also decided to create a special category called ‘Orinda Everyday Heroes’ to recognize the extraordinary service of COVID-19 healthcare workers. Dr. Christopher Severson and Diane Acevedo, RN, Orinda residents, are representing the many doctors and nurses of our area who provided outstanding care to those suffering from COVID-19.”
   Of his recognition, Dr. Severson, an ER physician, said, “I was chief of the department which involved the planning of how we at Kaiser Walnut Creek would handle this crisis. High priority was keeping the staff safe and providing optimal care for patients. This spring, our ER staff helped with vaccination clinics. The vaccines have made a tremendous difference because the vast majority of patients needing hospitalization and ventilators have been unvaccinated.”
   To make a reservation for the Oct. 24 event, which will honor these outstanding Orindans, go to the Orinda Community Foundation website ( and click on Citizen of the Year.

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