Annual Downtown Awards & Membership Meeting

Missoula Downtown Association

Annual Downtown Awards

Since 1986, the Missoula Downtown Association has recognized and honored individuals who have given back to the Missoula community through service to Downtown and the organizations that work to make Downtown the best it can be.

2023 Winners:

2023 Dan Cederberg Downtowner of the Year Award: Aaron Wilson, City of Missoula

For over a decade, Aaron, a dedicated transportation planner has been a driving force in revolutionizing Downtown Missoula’s infrastructure. Last year, his exemplary leadership secured a monumental $25-million federal RAISE grant, one of the largest investments ever in our Downtown core. This visionary achievement will lead to transformative projects like the conversion of Front & Main to two-way streets, a reimagined three-lane Higgins Street with separated bike lanes, and enhanced riverfront access, all accomplished without burdening property or business owners financially. This milestone not only showcases our planner’s commitment but also sets a new standard for urban development in Missoula.

2023 Downtown Business of the Year: Missoula Makers Collective

The Missoula Makers Collective exemplifies commitment to supporting local entrepreneurs and nurturing community spirit. Their focus on promoting local, sustainable goods and fostering intergenerational connections stands as a model for cities combating the influx of big box stores. Their unique approach to preserving Missoula’s unique character while encouraging entrepreneurial spirit encapsulates what makes our city exceptional.

2023 Downtown Employee of the Year: Jon Jensen, Downtown Missoula Partnership

For the past seven years, Jon has been instrumental in maintaining the beauty of Downtown Missoula by meticulously watering the flower baskets. This independent member of the Downtown Missoula Partnership team has shown exceptional dedication to his role.

Additionally, serving on the city’s cleaning staff for over two decades, Jon has become a beloved and dependable figure in the Downtown community, known for his joyful demeanor and consistent presence. His long-standing commitment has made him a cherished and integral part of Downtown Missoula.

2023 Downtown Volunteer of the Year: Steve Kemple, Retired

Steve, a dedicated Downtown Missoula resident and retired physician, has been a volunteer for five years, playing a key role in creating a festive atmosphere by helping to decorate Downtown with holiday garlands and buildings with Grizzly flags.

2023 Committee Member of the Year: Teresa Drew, Good Food Store

Teresa’s vibrant participation in the Membership and Marketing Committees, along with her outstanding efforts during the Membership BBQ, highlights her deep commitment and expertise. These contributions have rightfully positioned her as a deserving award winner, underlining her significant and positive impact on Downtown Missoula.

2023 Board Member of the Year: Bryan Hickey, Big Dipper Ice Cream

Bryan’s induction to the MDA Board last year has brought a wave of enthusiasm and commitment, marked by his active involvement in key events like Out to Lunch, Holidays on Higgins, and the Annual Awards Banquet. His dedication extends beyond these roles, as he generously offers ice cream and various services, setting a high bar for board member engagement. Bryan’s actions exemplify leadership and have earned him widespread appreciation for his supportive and proactive presence in the Downtown Missoula community.



2023 Nominations 

Downtown Business of the Year

Missoula Makers Collective is nominated for 2023 Downtown Business of the Year for their unwavering commitment to both supporting local entrepreneurs and fostering a sense of community. Through their dedication to promoting local, sustainable goods and creating connections between generations, they serve as a shining example for other cities facing challenges from big box stores. Their unique blend of preserving Missoula’s character and fueling entrepreneurial vitality makes them the epitome of what makes our city great.

Missoula Compost Collection is nominated for 2023 Business of the Year for enabling sustainable Downtown events by facilitating easy composting of food and beverage waste. Founded by entrepreneur Sean Doty, this local business not only influences event practices but also contributes to the growing trend of compost disposal in restaurants and downtown establishments.


Downtown Employee of the Year

Robert Rink of Cranky Sam Public House: A valued member of Cranky Sam Public House since its early days, Rob wears many hats at the pub, notably excelling as a bartender with his warmth, humor, and sincere care for customers. Beyond his exceptional service, Rob actively contributes to the community, exemplified by volunteering for the Montana Brewers Association and going above and beyond to support his coworkers and maintain a positive team culture at Cranky Sam.

Jon Jensen of the Downtown Missoula Partnership: A dedicated employee responsible for watering Downtown Missoula’s flower baskets for the past 7 years, has been a valuable and independent member of the Downtown Missoula Partnership team. Serving on the city’s cleaning staff for over two decades, Jon’s joyful and dependable presence has made him a cherished member of the Downtown community.

Micah Marino of Rocky Mountain Rigging: Micah has served as the stage manager for River City Roots Fest for two years, showcasing his exceptional work ethic, positive attitude, and unwavering commitment to perfection. Revered by all associated with the Main Stage, Micah significantly contributes to the event’s professionalism, earning him a well-deserved nomination despite his once-a-year downtown presence.

Jean Zosel of Garden City Harvest: Jean, the dedicated executive director at Garden City Harvest for 12 years, stands out as a caring and thoughtful leader who navigates the organization through challenges, program expansions, and community needs. Recognized for her fierce leadership, Jean takes her responsibilities seriously, ensuring Garden City Harvest remains an essential part of Missoula’s food security net, while also offering humor and support to her team during tough days.


Volunteer of the Year:

Steve Kemple: a dedicated Downtown resident and retired physician, has volunteered for five years, actively contributing to the festive atmosphere by helping hang holiday garlands and Grizzly Flags on Downtown buildings. Beyond his seasonal contributions, Steve also cares for the city’s trees, volunteering to water them, and remains an engaged community member, supporting the Downtown Missoula Partnership as a donor and a new member of the MDA.

Cerise McLean and Bret Carlson: Cerise, a longtime MDA volunteer for BrewFests, stood out for her joyful presence and positive interactions at events. Alongside her partner Bret, they volunteered at numerous MDA events, particularly excelling at Downtown ToNight, contributing to the success of the summer in Caras Park by ensuring smooth operations at the wristband tent and creating positive experiences for attendees.

Committee Member of the Year:

Mason Parker of Home ReSource: Mason has significantly enhanced the River City Roots Festival Planning Committee, bringing new energy and tenacity to their green and sustainable initiatives. His impactful research led to the elimination of plastic beer cups, resulting in a substantial reduction in trash and the highest percentage of recycled and composted materials ever achieved, showcasing Mason’s outstanding leadership in heading up the festival’s green efforts.

Teresa Drew of Good Food Store: Teresa’s enthusiastic involvement in both the Membership and Marketing Committees, coupled with her exceptional contributions during the Membership BBQ, demonstrates Teresa’s outstanding commitment and expertise, making her a truly deserving nominee for her significant contributions to the DMP.


Downtowner of the Year:

Trisha Drobeck of Run Wild Missoula: Trisha has devoted her incredible skills and tireless efforts to enhance Downtown Missoula by providing consistent running, walking, and educational opportunities that foster community connection. Her daily commitment extends beyond running programs and events, reaching organizations like The Center, EmpowerMT, and Missoula Food Bank, demonstrating Trisha’s dedication to inclusivity, accessibility, equity, and fun, all while inspiring others, fostering young female athletes’ leadership skills, and contributing to her vision of making Missoula a place for everyone.

Heidi Starrett of Missoula Broadcasting: Heidi generously invests her time and talent in the community, serving on multiple boards including MDA, Friends of the Children, Arts Missoula, and the JRPR Coordinating Council. In her role as an account executive for Missoula Broadcasting, she has supported numerous Downtown businesses and nonprofits with marketing and communications, contributing to various MDA committees and volunteering for numerous events, making her an exemplary candidate for the Dan Cederberg Downtowner of the Year.

Aaron Wilson of the City of Missoula: a dedicated transportation planner for the City for over a decade, spearheaded the successful acquisition of a $25-million-dollar federal transportation grant last year, marking one of the largest-ever investments in Downtown Missoula’s core. His leadership in securing the RAISE grant for transformative projects, including two-way streets on Front & Main, a three-lane Higgins Street with separated bike lanes, and improved riverfront access, has significantly contributed to the enhancement of Downtown infrastructure without relying on property or business owners for funding.


Board Member of the Year:

Bob Burns of Stockman Bank: Bob has done a great job leading the MDA this past year. He leads by example by consistently showing up, exercising leadership, volunteering and just making Downtown Missoula a better place. His will be big shoes to fill moving forward.

Byran Hickey of Big Dipper: Bryan’s induction to the MDA Board this year has been characterized by a strong commitment and sense of responsibility, actively participating in committees such as Out to Lunch, Holidays on Higgins, and the Annual Awards Banquet. Beyond his official roles, Bryan consistently goes above and beyond, generously contributing ice cream and offering his services in various capacities, setting a positive example for board members and earning sincere gratitude for his dedicated and supportive presence.