Community supporters, volunteers and businesses were honored Thursday night during the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards ceremony at the O’Shaughnessy Center.
This year’s Great Whitefish Award was given to Dale Duff.
Duff, owner of Rocky Mountain Transportation, was born and raised in Whitefish and has spent years giving back to the community.
His first service was likely at age 10 when he was tasked with ringing the fire alarm to signal the volunteer firefighters. He first job in town was shinning shoes in the downtown bars.
In presenting the award, Dan Graves said he is truly willing to lend a hand to anyone who needs it. He’s been known to buy a meal for those in need or pay for a hotel room for Amtrak passengers who get stranded in Whitefish.
“He has a true sense of community,” he said. “Whitefish owes a debt of gratitude to Dale Duff.”
Duff spent 15 years organizing the Whitefish Ski Joring event and was one of the competitors who originally participated in skijoring events when they were held on Central Avenue. He has also spent years as a volunteer for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Association. Duff has been known to ride his horse through town and even to the Whitefish Depot.
Rocky Mountain Transportation includes the oldest Hertz rental car franchise in the country, provides buses for the SNOW bus service and other charter services.
Through providing school buses for the Whitefish School District, Graves said Duff is known to drive every bus route on a snowy day at 4 a.m. to make sure it’s safe for the young passengers headed to school.
Duff said he was at a loss for words at the honor.
“I’m proud of Whitefish,” he said. “I couldn’t be in a greater place than Whitefish.”
Business of the Year
Mayor John Muhlfeld presented the business of the year award to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lion Mountain Post 276 in Whitefish.
Last year they gave $160,000 in donations to 30 organization, he noted. They also organize the annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony here.
“The post has become more active in recent years,” he said. “The organizers put the community first.”
Fred Hamilton, with the VFW, said the post is honored by the award and all the members are committed to providing funds to the community.
Tourism Business of Year
Dylan Boyle, with the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented the award to Whitefish Mountain Resort, noting that the resort also earned the honor in 2010.
“Whitefish Mountain Resort has invested heavily in their facilities year over year for the last 10 years,” he said.
The resort set a new record for season pass sales ahead of the 2019-20 season, breaking the 11,000 mark. The resort had a strong 2018-19 season on the mountain, with a new record for total visits at 384,800.
Earning its highest ranking yet, SKI Magazine named the resort last fall the third best ski resort in its annual readers poll. It was is the third time the resort has appeared in the Top 10 for overall ski resort.
In accepting the award, Dan Graves, CEO of Whitefish Mountain Resort, thanked all the staff at the resort.
“These are the people that make it happen,” he said. “We will continue to make Whitefish proud.”
Citizen of the Year
The honor for citizen of the year went to Mayor John Muhlfeld, who is serving his third term as mayor and previously served six years on City Council. Muhlfeld is a hydrologist and principal with River Design Group, Inc., a water resources engineering firm based here.
Lin Akey, in presenting the award listed many of Muhlfeld’s accomplishments, including the Haskill Basin conservation easement that protects the source of the city’s drinking water, and work by the city to reconstruct downtown streets including Central Avenue.
“In his three terms as mayor he’s rebuilt everything and it looks great,” he said. “He has given thousands of hours.”
Muhlfeld said he’s serving with one of the most qualified City Councils and department heads at the city that’s he’s seen during his tenure.
“I’m honored to be up here and certainly it is a labor of love,” he said.
Chamber Volunteer of the Year
Kevin Gartland, executive director of the chamber, selected Kitty Simpson as this year’s volunteer of the year for the countless hours she volunteers managing the cash for the Great Northwest Oktoberfest each fall.
“She works in a role that is not glamorous,” he said, but her work is much appreciated as she makes sure that the cash drawers are balanced every night of the event.
“Besides me she’s the last person to leave and she works until early in the morning,” he said.
Ambassador of the Year
Constance See was given the award for serving as one the chamber’s roughly 20 ambassadors. She was giving thanks for making sure the chamber’s paddywagon had new brakes and was road worthy for using in parades.
“When I moved to Whitefish my whole life changed,” See said. “There’s incredible heart here.”