By BRIAN WALKER
POST FALLS — Pam Houser has often been referred to as the unofficial "president of Post Falls," but she has another title now: Citizen of the Year.
Houser, community relations director for Heritage Health and this year’s Post Falls Rotary president, received the honor during Thursday night’s Post Falls Chamber of Commerce banquet and awards ceremony at Red Lion Templin’s Hotel.
"It means the world to me," she said after the ceremony. "This is my town."
Houser, a 1980 Post Falls High graduate and a former CEO at the Post Falls chamber, was described as the "epitome of a community leader" due to her varied involvement over the years.
"I’ve been through hard things in life," she said. "When you give back to others and focus less on yourself, it doesn’t take long to figure out that your life is amazing and what other people have to go through."
Houser said most people who know her know that she was barely married at 18 when her first husband committed suicide.
"The greatest lesson I learned is that tomorrow is never promised," she said. "Don’t take relationships and days for granted. Make sure people know you love them, even strangers, because you don’t know what they’re going through.
"I learned at a young age that circumstances can either make your stronger or you’ll be a victim your whole life, and I decided that I was not going to be a victim of my own circumstance. That’s why the good Lord sent me Rich (her husband of 37 years)."
Rich, the county’s chief deputy assessor, said his wife has always had a giving heart.
"Just the other day we heard about a high school kid who was living out of a truck, and right away she wanted to help," said Rich, who met Pam at a class reunion in Spirit Lake attended by their parents.
Pam was sworn in as the first female commissioner of Kootenai County Fire and Rescue in 2016 and serves on the boards of Jobs Plus, Kootenai Perspectives and Hayden Chamber.
"The fire department has been an opportunity for me to learn something new completely outside my box," she said. "We need to keep learning. It’s how you stay young."
Houser has also been involved with the food bank and senior center and is a graduate of the River City Leadership Academy.
Other award winners included:
• Chris Pappas, chamber Volunteer of the Year — Pappas, a former city clerk, volunteers at the chamber, Boys and Girls Club, senior center, Post Falls Festival Parade, Association of Idaho Cities and with the Post Falls Community Volunteers. According the chamber leaders, Pappas "does life with a smile and exemplifies excellence in everything."
• Jordan Sales and Service, chamber Business of the Year — The family-owned, three-generation firm sponsored the chamber’s golf tournament, provided leadership academy shirts and donated a decorated tree to Post Fallidays.
• Real Life Ministries, chamber’s Spirit of Post Falls — The nondenominational church provides its facility for the chamber’s Reverse Job Fair and job fairs in partnership with the Idaho Department of Labor. It hosts youth and sports programs, a food pantry, thrift store and recovery classes and counseling for the community.
• Torr Bonney, Boys and Girls Club Volunteer of the Year — Bonney is a positive influence at the nonprofit on Fridays, teaching youths new tricks and ways to perfect their pool game.
• Eat Smart Idaho/University of Idaho Extension, Boys and Girls Club Business of the Year — Eat Smart Idaho provides nutrition classes with hands-on learning for club members and assists with the club’s Thanksgiving meals, open houses and Christmas for Kids.
• Brian "Kiwi" Kirk, Post Falls Food Bank Volunteer of the Year — Kirk delivers food to schools for the weekly weekend backpack program for students in need. He has also been involved in the annual Give Hunger the Bird fundraiser for the food bank and builds items for donations.
• Century Publishing, food bank Business of the Year — The company that has operated in Post Falls for more than 45 years assists the nonprofit with marketing efforts.