CARLSBAD — There was a reason for celebration at the Carlsbad City Council Chambers before its regularly scheduled meeting as council members honored the city’s new Citizens of the Year.
Longtime Carlsbad volunteers, Stephen “Hap” L’Heureux and Gina McBride earned the honors Tuesday night, stemming from their support and championing of multiple causes within the city in hopes of making a positive impact in their town.
“The award recognizes community members who have dedicated themselves to improving Carlsbad through outstanding service,” said Kristina Ray, communications manager for the City of Carlsbad. “The Citizen of the Year program is more than 40 years old and honors community members who have given their time and energy toward the civic improvement, beautification and betterment of the City of Carlsbad.”
Carlsbad boasts of having more than 2,000 volunteers.
For Mayor Matt Hall, to honor L’Heureux and McBride who have given back for so many years was a true honor.
“One of the most important things that we do together is how we all have a belief of giving back in this community,” Hall said.
L’Heureux, a resident of Carlsbad since 1972, has helped the city in many capacities. This list includes being on the Carlsbad Planning Commission and both board member and past president of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce.
He has also served on other committees and boards such as the Envision Carlsbad Citizens Committee, Tri-City Hospital Foundation, New Village Arts Theater, Carlsbad Library and Arts Foundation, Carlsbad Evening Rotary and ArtSplash.
In 1994, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce recognized his superior public service with the Master’s Meed award. Only a select handful of people have been recipients of both the Master’s Meed and Citizen of the Year.
L’Heureux’s late wife, Ann, received Carlsbad Citizen of the Year honors in 2003.
“When we moved to Carlsbad and started a family my wife and I decided that volunteering was an important piece of whatever we were doing,” L’Heureux said. “It was almost like second nature for the both of us.”
A practicing attorney, L’Heureux admits that he does sometimes take on a little more than he needs to do, but somehow, it always has a way of working out.
“I don’t necessarily know how to say ‘no,’ because I am one of those kinds of over achievers,” he said.
While all his volunteerism has been special, being part of the planning commission continues to be a great opportunity. He was there during many of the developmental critical junctures, including Legoland.
L’Heureux is delighted that he’s received this honor with his friend, McBride.
“It’s fun sharing this with honor with ‘Hap’ because we’re such good friends and have known each other over the years,” McBride said.
McBride was surprised and deeply honored to become Citizen of the Year.
Like L’Heureux, McBride has been involved in many boards, committees and organizations such as the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, New Village Arts Theatre, Envision Carlsbad Citizens committee, Carlsbad Library and Arts Foundation, was a founding member of Imagine Carlsbad and a Rotarian.
McBride also established the “It’s In The Bag,” to help the hungry on a local level, “Presents 4 Pets” with her daughter to help shelter animals, “Radio Talk Café” an internet radio program sharing philanthropy and nonprofit happenings, and the Starfish Leadership Award.
For McBride, the Starfish Leadership Award provides a powerful personal impact.
“The Starfish Leadership Award is the culmination of so many roads that I have traveled over my lifetime, so to honor someone who personifies the starfish concept of seeing a need and finding a way to address that need by bringing other people along has been a real joy for me,” McBride said.
McBride often hears how people are longing for the good old days during a time when people in the community worked together, neighbors knew each other and they helped one another out. She believes this is happening in her own backyard.
“I think those good old days are in Carlsbad and this is a perfect place to call home,” McBride said.