37th Annual MDA Awards Banquet Celebrates Local Champions of Community

37th Annual MDA Awards Banquet Celebrates Local Champions of Community

Aaron Wilson Named Dan Cederberg Downtowner of the Year


Six remarkable individuals were each recognized for their unwavering dedication to Downtown Missoula at the Missoula Downtown Association’s 37th Annual Meeting at the Holiday Inn, January 25.

Aaron Wilson, City of Missoula Transportation Planner, received the Dan Cederberg Downtowner of the Year Award for his leadership in securing a groundbreaking $25-million-dollar federal grant, marking one of the largest-ever investments Downtown Missoula’s core. His efforts towards transformative projects, including two-way streets on Front & Main, a three-lane Higgins Avenue with separated bike lanes, and improved riverfront access, showcase his commitment to enhancing Downtown infrastructure without relying on property or business owners for funding. Other commendable nominees were Trisha Drobeck of Run Wild Missoula and Heidi Starrett of Missoula Broadcasting.

The Board Member of the Year was awarded to Bryan Hickey, President of Big Dipper Ice Cream. Hickey’s exemplary service on three committees and his leadership in his first year on the MDA Board of Directors set a standard for commitment. The other nominee was Bob Burns of Stockman Bank, who has served for six years on the MDA Board and was Past President in 2023.

The Committee Member of the Year was awarded to Teresa Drew of the Good Food Store for her outstanding contributions to both Membership and Marketing Committees. The other nominee was Mason Parker of Home Resource for his contributions to River City Roots Festival.

Steve Kemple, a dedicated Downtown resident and retired physician, claimed the Volunteer of the Year title for his five years of active contributions to the festive atmosphere of Downtown, including decorating Downtown with holiday garlands and Grizzly Flags. Cerise McLean and Bret Carlson were also acknowledged for their service to Downtown ToNight.

Jon Jensen of Opportunity Resources and an independent member of the Downtown Missoula Partnership team was honored as the Downtown Employee of the Year for his dedicated service in watering the Downtown flower baskets for the past seven years.  Other nominees included Robert Rink of Cranky Sam Public House, Micah Marino of Rocky Mountain Rigging, and Jean Zosel of Garden City Harvest.

Missoula Makers Collective, co-founded by Rachel Cowan and Bailey Durnell, received the award for Downtown Business of the Year. Their unwavering commitment to supporting local entrepreneurs and fostering community connections sets them apart. They were instrumental in the addition of the Missoula Makers Market at both Downtown ToNight and Holidays on Higgins. Missoula Compost Collection was also nominated for Downtown Business of the Year for it’s commitment to sustainability in Missoula.

“Downtown holds a distinct charm, thanks to all of these extraordinary individuals,” remarked Jed Liston, Rehab Outreach Liaison at Community Medical Center, and incoming President of the MDA Board of Directors. Reflecting on the significance of the awards, Liston emphasized, “Every year, the nominees exemplify an unwavering commitment, dedication, expertise and often contribute funding to transformative Downtown projects and events. The act of giving back is ingrained in Missoula’s culture, and each nominee has made a remarkable impact on our organization and Downtown.”

The Downtown Awards Program was created by the MDA in 1986 and expanded in 2004 and again in 2014. Nominees are submitted by MDA members and voted on by the MDA Board of Directors.

Created in 1975, the Missoula Downtown Association is a private, non-profit, business association dedicated to promoting, supporting, and enhancing the vitality of Downtown for everyone. The MDA serves nearly 525 business members and is a partner with the Downtown BID and the Missoula Downtown Foundation under the umbrella of the Downtown Missoula Partnership.

For more information on the Downtown Awards Program or to schedule an interview, contact the Downtown Missoula Partnership via phone (406-543-4238) or email ([email protected]).

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