From the Editorial Board of the Atascadero News:

Taking a position as an editorial board will always be something that we do with great consideration for all parties involved. As a local newspaper, we are intrinsic and connected to all aspects of our community. As we stated in our announcement about our editorial board formation, our purpose will always be loyal to what makes the community better.

In the season of celebrating community pillars, the local chambers of commerce select their picks for their own particular version of “person of the year.” They are not without controversy, and not everyone will agree on the chamber’s choices.

This year, Nipomo’s Citizen of the Year choice was met with a strong case against him because of his personal Facebook page feed. In response, Jim Harrison sent a letter to the Nipomo Chamber’s steering committee, declining the award.

Paso Robles chose Mark Perry, whose resume for community giving and involvement in Paso Robles over his lifetime provides an established record in support of the honor of “Roblan of the Year.”

At the Atascadero News, we have had three months to mull over the idea of Terrie Banish as the Atascadero Citizen of the Year. When we first read the news, it was a collective sense of confusion over the choice. We discussed our initial response with Atascadero Chamber CEO Emily Reneau, and received her feedback.

Between that time and the annual chamber dinner on Saturday, we have been able to sort through our confusion and unanimously agree to write an editorial stating our position.

Terrie Banish was a terrific employee choice for the City of Atascadero. She has since put forth a monumental effort, and produced great results, in the execution of her office as the Deputy City Manager – Marketing/Promotions/Events.

Terrie’s involvement with community organizations as an extension of her position has received high praise, and there is no evidence to insist it is undeserved.

We might list her accomplishments and her impact on the community of Atascadero, but that would be a long list we believe is more justified (however misplaced) by the fact that she was chosen as the Atascadero Citizen of the Year for 2019.

The fact that she is a resident of San Miguel has no impact on our position as an editorial board. Her salaried position is with the City of Atascadero, and her report card is dedicated to the impact she has on this community. 

Under those credentials and criteria, it makes perfect sense that Terrie ought to be recognized for her impact on the community Atascadero, not by her city of residence.

More and more, as we pondered and discussed our position as a board, we came up with the same conclusion every time.

Terrie does a great job at her job. Outstanding. Atascadero is truly fortunate to be the recipient of the commitment, dedication, and — as Rachelle Rickard stated in her review of Terrie — her energy. But as an editorial board, we come away from Saturday’s Chamber dinner with the same sentiment we have not been able to shake since first hearing the news in October.

From the details of her qualifications, to the essence of her speech, we cannot escape that the 2019 Citizen of the Year award was given to someone for doing a great job at doing their job — even going above and beyond in their line of duty.

We are already aware, as a board, that former Citizens of the Year truly appreciate Terrie’s impact on the community and have spoken in support of her receiving the award. We respectfully disagree with all of them.

Of the names of past awardees — Donn Clickard, Jeannie Malik, Barbie Butz, Albert Almodova, Jimmy Quinonez, Jerry Tanimoto, and others — the honor of Citizen of the Year comes with a lifetime of giving to Atascadero, and each resume boasts of the efforts and impact delivered outside of the scope of their position of employment.

When Jeannie Malik was chosen as the 2018 Citizen of the Year, the response was “about time.”

The Atascadero Chamber Citizen of the Year is defined as “A person conducting significant volunteer service in the Atascadero Community and its surrounding area.”

Reflecting on the chamber’s choice for 2019 — and the chamber’s choice for 2009 for that matter — the recognition was misappropriated. The integrity of the Citizen of the Year award is built by the list of recipients, not just by the decision-makers one year or another.

We are sympathetic to CEO Emily Reneau, in taking on the position has seen nothing but an uphill battle in her way in leading the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce into 2020.

We appreciate the challenges she faces, and the support she needs from the City of Atascadero (a “Key Partner” to the chamber). We also acknowledge that the decision was made by vote, and our position as a board admonishes the decision-makers, many of whom we highly respect for their work in the community.

We want a better community. As a board, we are in full agreement that Terrie Banish’s work has contributed to a better community for Atascadero.

However, upon the full reflection of the award in hindsight, we are left with the impression Terrie was operating significantly within the confines of her job duties.  Being a salaried City manager means not a lot of room for “conducting significant volunteer service.”

We do not publish this without clear knowledge that we are pushing against the grain, but as a proud community partner with the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, we will expect better. As a newspaper, we are going to push against the grain whenever we believe it makes the community better.

Getting through this together, Atascadero