Unlike the 2010 Novato Citizen of the Year, silent-type , the newest honoree is totally at ease in front of large groups and live microphones. Yet Dennis Hagerty is still a humble servant — something that duly impressed the city’s Citizen of the Year committee.
Hagerty was introduced as the 2011 Novato Citizen of the Year on Friday night at the Paint the Town Red gala event, an annual celebration of the city’s birthday. (There are 52 candles on the cake this time). The event featured local food and drink, music by ace jazz vocalist Noah Griffin and the introductions of the Chamber of Commerce's Businesses of the Year. (large business), Hennessy Funds (small business) and Barker Pacific Group (green business) were the awardees.
Hagerty, a State Farm insurance agent and a Novato resident since 1981, was surprised to see his son, Kyle, an agronomist working in Colorado, in the crowd Friday night along with 13 other close friends. Hagerty’s wife, Gilda, said she wanted to make it a special night for her husband.
“He will be surprised and honored,” Gilda Hagerty said Friday afternoon. “He will be accompanied on the list (of past Citizens of the Year) with absolutely fantastic people, and I think he will really appreciate that. He has looked up to a lot of those people.”
Hagerty, a San Marin resident, is an announcer at the annual Novato Fourth of July Parade and San Marin Improvement Association holiday events, the music director for the Novato Festival of Art, Wine & Music and holds a number of positions with the Rotary Club of Novato, for which he is a past president and executive board member.
The programs for which he has volunteered is a long list, including Project Amigo, Rotary Group Study Exchange, Toys for Tots, Boy Scouts (including as a Cubmaster and Scoutmaster), Rock’n Blues by the Lake and the Novato Theater renovation project. He has played in several local bands as a guitar player and drummer.
“He truly exemplifies service above self,” said Rob Sundberg, a bandmate and friend. “He puts in tons of hours for the art & wine festival every year. I know being a volunteer is something he really prides himself in.
“If we were truly painting the town red, Dennis is the guy we’d call because he would be first with a bucket of paint and a brush and gathering other people willing to help. He doesn’t just talk. He gets things done. A more deserving choice (for Citizen of the Year) could not be made.”
Raised in Hacienda Heights, Hagerty has been married to Gilda since 1979 and a State Farm agent since January 1982. He loves telling the story of the first day he opened for business in Novato — and getting flooded out of his office because of the Storm of ’82. He since moved that Front Street office to his current headquarters at Sherman and Grant avenues. He won State Farm’s Crystal Excellence award in 2010.
Dietrich Stroeh, who heads the committee that picks the honoree, said Hagerty’s body of work — mostly as a volunteer — was overwhelming enough to earn the award over 10 other nominees this year.
“The thread that links all these people is that they do a lot of different things for our community,” Stroeh said, “but Dennis always goes one step further, goes the extra mile. We all can attend meetings and say we want to help, but does everyone actually do something that makes a big difference? He does. He’s a doer.”
For Marinscope Newspapers' feature on Dennis, click here.