Pat Jollota honored as Vancouver's First Citizen

Historian's contributions to city's past, present, future applauded

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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photoPat Jollota receives the 2012 First Citizen award Thursday from Mark Matthias, the 2008 First Citizen, at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

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Pat Jollota has been recognized as an authority on Clark County's past.

She has been applauded for her role in making Vancouver what it is today.

But Jollota also is influencing the community's future, as represented by some of its most vulnerable children.

That range of involvement is why Jollota was honored Thursday as 2012 First Citizen.

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington presents the award annually to a Clark County resident who has modeled exemplary citizenship through actions and service to the community.

In her turn at the microphone, Jollota thanked the community — and not just for the 2012 award.

"This community will take as much as you want to give, and give it back 100 times and more," the author, activist and former Vancouver City Council member said. "You have given me so much more than I have given you."

But there were plenty of people willing to elaborate on Jollota's civic roles.

Before the formal presentation, retired county prosecutor Art Curtis discussed how Jollota helped organize a center to respond to felony child abuse cases.

"She was one of the founders, and she was on the board from its inception," said the namesake of the Arthur D. Curtis Children's Justice Center.

"In the old days, in 1991, we had no dedicated law enforcement" to respond to child abuse, Curtis said. "There was one officer, and if there was a homicide, she went off to work the homicide."

And child abuse is not an insignificant issue, said Mary Blanchette, one of the three speakers who detailed Jollota's range of involvement.

"We are getting more reports than ever: 3,000 last year," said Blanchette, director of the Children's Justice Center. That's eight cases a day, every day of the year.

Brian Willoughby, the spokesman for Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, highlighted Jollota's role in preserving Clark County's past.

"If it's something about local history, chances are Pat Jollota wrote the book about it -- literally," Willoughby told the crowd, which included several previous First Citizen honorees, at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

Willoughby described Jollota as wise as well as a historian, and said she can bring both attributes to an issue. Her approach, Willoughby said, is: "We've been through so much; we'll get through this, too -- and we'll get through it more effectively if we allow our current decision-making to be informed by our collective past."

Her willingness to share history isn't limited to words on a page, Willoughby added.

"It's not unusual for her to speak at a breakfast for one group, lunch for another, and dinner for yet another in a single day," Willoughby said.

Finally, former mayor Royce Pollard, the 2010 First Citizen, took the stage with an intriguing prop: an empty chair. Pollard introduced a series of invisible "friends" who shared stories about Jollota's 20-year stint as a city councilor.

The first "speaker" recalled when firefighters needed a piece of thermal imaging equipment, and Jollota helped raise enough money to acquire two of them.

Next, Pollard spoke for a cop: "No council member has ever been more supportive of police than Pat Jollota."

Finally, Pollard "introduced" Esther Short, adding that she sure looked good for someone who was born in 1806.

Esther Short embodied local history, something that Pat Jollota "explains in a way we can all understand who we are and where we came from," Pollard said.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.