FREEPORT — Nearly 60 people attended an award ceremony before the Town Council’s regular meeting Tuesday night to recognize two long-time residents for their commitment to the community.
Fred Palmer and John Paterson were selected by the Special Projects Committee as recipients of the 2017 Citizen of the Year awards.
Following the ceremony, the council took up regular business, which consisted of issuing liquor and public peddler licenses to local businesses.
The committee chairwoman, Councilor Melanie Sachs, said in a news release that the selection of Palmer and Paterson was unanimous.
“The depth and breadth of their service to the town of Freeport in so many different areas is truly impressive,” Sachs said. “We are delighted to recognize their contributions and are grateful for their many years of dedication to the community.”
Most recently, Palmer and Paterson served as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Tri-Town Track and Field Committee, which was instrumental in advocating and fundraising for the recently completed $4.5 million track and field project at the high school.
TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race founder and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson thanked Palmer and Paterson for their work on the track. Samuelson was the project committee’s honorary director.
“If you really want to talk about endurance athletes, you’re looking at them,” Benoit said, nodding towards Palmer and Paterson.
Regional School Unit 5 Chairwoman Michelle Ritcheson commended Palmer and Paterson’s ability to “persevere” through the track and field project and to do so with a positive attitude.
“Their passion is clear and their motivation is undying,” Ritcheson said. “I really believe that the success of this has rested on their shoulders several times.”
Palmer, who has been a resident of Freeport since the early 1970s, previously served on the Freeport School Committee and was a town councilor from 1983-1986.
In a statement, Town Manager Peter Joseph noted Palmer’s advocacy for the creation of the Casco Bay YMCA on Old South Freeport Road, and as a board member and volunteer with Seeds of Independence, a local nonprofit that mentors and supports adolescents.
Palmer also helped start the Freeport High School girls lacrosse team, assisted in the effort to add tennis courts to the high school campus, and helped build an additional athletic field behind those courts. He even rolled out the sod.
“Fred has quietly and consistently supported athletics in Freeport,” Joseph said.
Paterson moved to town a decade later, in the early 1980s. He was a member of the School Committee, and served on the Town Council from 1987-1990. He has also been involved in various town art organizations, including the Freeport Players and the Greater Freeport Community Chorus.
Outside of Freeport, Paterson is the past president of Maine’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and serves as development committee chairman for Safe Passage, a nonprofit that provides education, support and hope for at-risk children in Guatemala.
He also has devoted time to mentoring middle and high school students in Freeport and Topsham through Seeds of Independence.
Council Chairwoman Sarah Tracy said she has had the honor of knowing Palmer and Paterson for decades.
“Both gentlemen have epitomized what it means to be an example to kids who are growing up in this community,” she said. “It took a lot of people, but in the hardest of times, it was Fred and John who were facing the adversity and the challenges (of the Track and Field Project) … We deserve first-class facilities … Our school is really the storefront for families who are thinking about making a life here … Thank you very much for helping our storefront look a little brighter.”
Now retired, Palmer and Paterson enjoyed successful careers as a public accountant and attorney, respectively.
“I’m honored to accept this award,” Palmer said. “This really is a fabulous community of people and we’re really lucky to live here.”
Paterson echoed Palmer’s remarks.
“I’ll never get over how engaged in this town people are,” he said. “Moving to Freeport was one of the best things (my wife, Pat, and I) ever did.”
Fred Palmer, left, and John Paterson were named Freeport’s 2017 Citizens of the Year on Tuesday, Feb. 6.