While society has seemingly shifted away from highlighting the heroes of our societies, instead focusing on negativity, some in Stark County are moving away from that mindset. The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award will honor homegrown heroes for their contributions to the Western Edge.

The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award is a resident driven program that is meant to spotlight positive actions done by local people with the purpose to build morale throughout the county. Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Sale Coordinator Julie Obrigewitsch has been the brains of the operation and has nurtured the idea into reality.

“Everyone benefits from spreading positivity, it's a domino effect and it also adds the value of our community to highlight our great people and encourage people to look for the positive features in (others),” Obrigewitsch said. “Don't be afraid to nominate someone, it might make their day and it might inspire other people to do good things.”

Any resident or group from Stark County can be nominated and nominations can be made by anyone whether they are residents of the county or not. The award recognizes the contribution of an individual or group that demonstrated leadership, customer service, innovation, stewardship and good samaritan acts of kindness.

“It's a very broad award because we knew we wanted it to be bigger than customer service,” Obrigewitsch said. “We want the good deeds to shine.”

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The recipient will be picked by community leadership including the mayors of South Heart, Richardton, Taylor, Gladstone, Dickinson and Belfield — among others.

“The awards committee is unique as well because it is the mayors of the county and also our Stark County Sheriffs [Office] that are on the awards team too,” she said.

“We wanted to involve the mayors because it is their constituents, their people that we are highlighting … Some of them said that they were busy with other projects but they felt this was one they felt good to be on because it was so positive, it was very inspiring,” Obrigewitsch said. “I can't tell you how happy it makes me feel — the fact that everyone is embracing it. Not just the residence, but these community leaders. It's a very humbling feeling.”

The Stark County Sheriff Office is also on the committee board and has provided a page on their website dedicated to offer information about the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award where residents can submit a nomination electronically.

Lt. Eldon Mehrer of Stark County Sheriff spoke highly of the cooperative work they have done with the city commission, CVB and Obrigewitsch on the program and offered a huge thanks to Obrigewitsch for her efforts.

“...We are happy to be part of this to recognize those unsung heros...,” Lt. Mehrer said. “So many times in this day and age, it seems like you have to wear a uniform or be this profession or that profession in order to do honorable things when in fact we know that many times it's the citizens and the things that they do each and every day that make their communities better is what really needs to be recognized.”

The award will be presented bi-monthly at the end of February, April, June, August, October and December. The deadline for submission will be on the 15th of each of these months. To keep the award process fair, the nomination will be presented to the judges in a blind format, all names will be removed.

For those who would like to nominate someone for the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award go to, www.starkcountysheriffnd.com. More information can also be found on the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award Facebook page.

“I am the only one who sees the nomination, preparing them for the judges to convene … We have had an amazing response, it's greater than what I ever anticipated” Obrigewitsch said “The nominations are so great, not only are they plentiful with the ones we have received [already], but the quality of them is just impressive.”