For each of her 16 years as executive director of the Olympia Downtown Association, Connie Lorenz presided over an annual meeting in which someone was recognized as a Person of the Year for his or her contributions to downtown.
On Monday night, during the same annual gathering at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, the ODA returned the compliment, naming Lorenz their Person of the Year for 2015. She retired from the organization last year.
Lorenz’s win was announced by last year’s winner, Kevin Stormans, co-owner of the Bayview and Ralph’s Thriftway stores. He went so far as to call her the “person of the decade.”
“She was a relationship builder, learning from people who inspired her and inspiring others in turn,” Stormans said about Lorenz. “She was dedicated to service and passionately and tirelessly lived her commitment to the downtown community.”
After a rousing round of applause from about 100 people, Lorenz described herself as lucky.
“The people who hired me had the faith in me to run this organization,” she said. “I had a blast.”
Lorenz was succeeded at the ODA by executive director Vida Zvirzdys-Farler.
The annual meeting is a celebration of downtown. Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum didn’t miss a beat, highlighting what he called several recent positive accomplishments for the city’s core.
His list: a mixed-use development with 138 apartments currently under construction at 123 Fourth Avenue; Encore Chocolates & Teas, a new business across from the Washington Center; a toy store, Captain Little, which opened in the wake of the closure of Wind Up Here; Washington Business Bank and Thurston First Bank’s moves to downtown; and the opening of Three Magnets Brewing Co. in the Thurston First Bank Building.
Buxbaum called the 123 Fourth Avenue project a “game-changer for our downtown,” which will “pay off over the long term for this city.”
An architect also provided an overview of the development, including that a restaurant space with outdoor seating has been proposed at the corner of Columbia Street and Fifth Avenue.
Other awards announced Monday night included:
• Volunteer of the Year: Anne Larsen Matheson
• Business of the Year: Puget Sound Energy.
• Downtown Golden Paintbrush Awards, recognizing those who helped paint and beautify downtown buildings: John Knox of Juice Box LLC, Mary Corso of Courtyard Antiques, and Connie Lorenz.