Achievement honored at Business Leadership Awards

Don Johnson, vice president and general manager of Simpson Tacoma Kraft, was named 2003 Business Leader of the Year at Wednesday night’s Business Leadership Awards ceremony at the Washington State History Museum.

Six other area businesspeople were given Business Leadership Awards at the third annual event, presented by the University of Washington Tacoma Milgard School of Business and The Business Examiner, and sponsored by Heritage Bank.

Fred Haley was given a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Thaddeus Martin IV was given a Rising Star Award.

UW Tacoma envisioned a way of bestowing meaningful recognition on area business leaders, said Vicky Carwein, UW Tacoma chancellor, during opening remarks. “In making these awards, we wanted to honor shining stars for our business student,” she said.

“We’ve really enjoyed having this fruitful relationship for three years now,” observed Jeff Rounce, publisher of the Business Newspaper Examiner Group. “We’re proud to recognize people making a difference,” he said.

One of those people making a difference is Don Johnson, a 31-year employee of Simpson Tacoma Kraft, who has a long and abiding relationship with the Tacoma-Pierce County community.

His core belief – that community service is good business – has led him to devote hundreds of hours to charitable organizations. He sets an example for his co-workers by demonstrating that the responsibility of business leadership extends also to individual efforts on behalf of others.

On the job, Johnson has created a clear vision for business success that is embraced by the several hundred workers who are critical to its implementation. His leadership style involves attention to detail and extreme customer service from an operation that is productive around-the-clock. Thanks to his efforts, production output at Simpson Tacoma Kraft is at least four times greater today than it once was.

For years, Simpson Tacoma Kraft has supported its home community through countless charitable organizations. The company authorizes and funds a Community Care Team comprised of staff from all departments and levels of the organizations. Johnson began and continues a manufacturing and technology internship for high school students each summer, helping them to understand the importance of a strong core foundation in math and science subjects. Johnson is also past chair of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the local United Way campaign.

“Tacoma’s a great place to work,” said a surprised Johnson, someone stunned to receive the award. “Thanks a bunch.”

Twenty-three area businesspeople were nominated for the Business Leadership Awards.

A panel of judges, made up of Milgard School of Business faculty, members of the school’s Business Advisory Board and representatives from Heritage Bank and the Business Examiner, selected the honorees based on accomplishments, strategic thinking, integrated business knowledge, teamwork, professionalism and communication – competencies emphasized in UW Tacoma’s Milgard School of Business. Judges also considered nominees’ contributions to the individual’s field of business, the region’s business climate and the community at large.

Recipients of the Business Leadership Awards were Melanie Dressel, president and CEO of Columbia Bank; John A. Hall, president and CEO of Rainier Pacific Bank; Andrea Riniker, executive director of the Port of Tacoma; Randy Rushforth, president of Rushforth Construction, Inc.; Linda Thomas, executive director of Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell, Malanca, Peterson & Deheim LLP; and Janeanne Upp, executive director of the Tacoma Art Museum.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by an individual whose career has benefited his or her field of business and the greater community, went to Fred Haley, chairman emeritus of Tacoma candy makers Brown & Haley.

In 1914, Haley’s father, J.C. Haley, joined Harry L. Brown to form the Brown & Haley candy company. Fred Haley joined the family firm as a salesman in 1935 and was named president, CEO and chairman of the board in 1954. He retired 41 years later, turning management of the firm over to the next generation.

Haley has dedicated much of his life to his two long-term passions – civil liberties and education. As chairman of the Tacoma School Board in the 1950s, Haley played a key role in refusing to fire an employee who invoked Fifth Amendment rights before the House Un-American Activities Committee and encouraged the hiring of minority teachers and staff in Tacoma schools. Later, he chaired the State Citizens Committee for Civil Rights Legislation and participated in Martin Luther King’s 1963 march on Washington. Haley was instrumental in the founding of the UW Tacoma campus and has a history of philanthropic and active support for nonprofit causes.

“I made it. I’m here,” joked the elderly Haley, who’s body may be slowed by age, but whose mind is sharp. He remarked how much has changed in the region in a little over a decade.

Thaddeus Martin IV, an up-and-coming lawyer at Gordon Thomas Honeywell, the region’s oldest and largest law firm, received the Rising Star Award, which recognizes someone new to the Pierce County market who already is making a significant impact and has potential to influence the community for good for years to come.

At age 32, he is the firm’s youngest partner – and the first to generate over $1 million in business in his first year. He was named 2002 Lawyer of the Year by the Washington State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and 2003 “Super Lawyer” by Washington Law and Politics.

A 1998 graduate of Seattle University, he practices in the areas of personal injury, wrongful death and racial discrimination.

Despite an increasingly busy schedule, Martin frequently takes time to give back to the community. He provides pro bono legal services for people who could not otherwise afford representation, serves on the alumni board of Seattle University, offers continuing legal education to members of the Washington State Bar Association and serves as a mentor to underprivileged youth.

Noting that lawyers don’t always get favorable publicity, Martin said, “This is definitely good feedback.”