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Renton Volunteers Honored as Citizen of the Year and Outstanding Citizens


For more information and to schedule an interview with the winners contact:
Angela Kolczynski, Renton Chamber of Commerce, (425) 226-4560

September 28, 2007

2007 Citizen of the Year - Kirby Unti
Outstanding Citizens - Joy Poff and Lee Wheeler

RENTON: The City of Renton, Renton Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club of Renton will honor Kirby Unti as the 2007 Citizen of the Year and Joy Poff and Lee Wheeler as Outstanding Citizens. This award recognizes their dedication and exceptional contributions to the Renton community. The award ceremony will take place at the annual Citizen of the Year Banquet on Thursday, October 18, 2007, at 5 p.m. at the Renton Senior Activity Center.

“It is our privilege to honor Kirby Unti as the 2007 Citizen of the Year and Joy Poff and Lee Wheeler as Outstanding Citizens," said Renton Mayor Kathy Keolker.  “Their dedication and spirit of commitment are an inspiration to all of us who strive to create a stronger future for Renton. This is what living in a great city is all about: reaching out to one another, bringing new hope and opportunity into the lives of our neighbors and helping create a sense of community.”

“On behalf of the entire Renton community, I want to thank and congratulate each of the winners, and I also want to thank all of the thousands of volunteers who selflessly work to build a better city for us all,” said Bill Taylor, president of the Renton Chamber of Commerce.

Several different organizations and thousands of individuals benefit from the combined volunteer efforts of Kirby Unti, Joy Poff, and Lee Wheeler. Their volunteer service focuses on a variety of areas, including human services, education, community involvement, business, and arts.

“Our community has a rich heritage of volunteerism,” said Marcie Maxwell, president of the Rotary Club of Renton. “The winners of this year's Citizen of the Year and Outstanding Citizen Award are the embodiment of the Renton spirit.”

2007 Citizen of the Year Kirby Unti and his wife Kim arrived in Renton on a memorable day, May 18, 1980.  Kirby has served as pastor of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church across from McKnight Middle School for the past 27 years, moving the church from survival mode to being an active partner in our community.  Kirby has been an active player in a number of social and community service organizations including K.S.A.R.C, Salvation Army, 40 Assets, Connection Adult Day Care, Congregations for the Homeless, the Renton Community Foundation, and the Emergency Feeding Program and is a member and past president of Renton Rotary.  Favorite institutions that Kirby has been an advocate for in the community include Renton Technical College, the Renton School District and Valley Medical Center. In his role as pastor, Kirby has served as Chaplain to the Renton Police Department, officiated at hundreds of weddings and baptisms and has been there for the Renton community to preside at the funerals of many of our Renton citizens and leaders.

2007 Outstanding Citizen Joy Poff is truly dedicated to improving Renton’s community and has the gift of bringing people together for a common cause. Joy Poff was elected to serve five terms as a Renton School Board director. Joy provided policy-level decision-making, strategic leadership, guidance and direction while serving as a School Board member. Additionally, Joy provides guidance and leadership to foster community-based partnerships, opportunities for at-risk youth, community philanthropy, and regional issues important to families and citizens in Renton and surrounding communities. Joy also serves as a board member for the Renton Community Foundation, providing leadership to allow greater Renton an opportunity to connect donors, non-profits, community leaders and other partners to participate in issues of community support and philanthropy. Joy was also one of the original members of the Board of Directors for Renton Civic Theater; an organization that was instrumental in organizing the old Renton Theater into a center for the performing arts. Joy was born and raised in Renton. Her service to the school district spans three decades and includes activities from volunteering in the classrooms, to Parent Teacher Association (PTA), to work as a School Board member.

2007 Outstanding Citizen Lee Wheeler was raised in the Renton Highlands and attended Renton schools, graduating from Renton High School in 1962. In June 1983, Lee was hired as Chief of the Renton Fire Department.  He retired March 31, 2006. Lee belongs to Renton Rotary (top seller of Rubber Ducky tickets) and serves on the Renton Salvation Army Advisory Board, Renton Technical College Foundation Board of Directors, Communities in Schools of Renton Advisory Committee, Renton High School Excellence in Education Board .In addition, Lee is an honorary member of the Renton Chamber of Commerce and moderates annually for the International Code Council throughout the U.S.  Every year Lee also sells all the golf sponsorships for both the Sam Chastain Memorial Renton River Days Golf Tournament and the Renton High School Excellence in Education Golf Tournament.

All the individuals nominated in 2007 deserve to be honored for their contributions. Representatives of the sponsoring organizations and past Citizen of the Year award winners had the difficult but rewarding task of selecting the winners of this year’s award. This year’s winners will be honored at the annual Citizen of the Year banquet at the Renton Senior Activity Center on October 18, 2007, starting at 5:00 p.m.  Cost per person is $25, and reservations can be made online at or by calling the Renton Chamber of Commerce at 425-226-4560. Reservations are requested by October 12, 2007.