Three Mesans who have demonstrated “a willingness to go the extra mile for others” have been recognized for their service to the community with the title of Mesa Citizen of the Year.
Chris Rhodes was named Mesa’s Woman of the Year, and Michael Hughes and Milt Laflen share the title of Mesa’s Man of the Year.
“(They have) encouraged volunteer community service by others (and) fostered leadership within the organizations they’ve worked,” said Debra Duvall, who co-chairs a committee of past honorees that selected the citizens of the year. “The types of things they’ve done have made a difference in the community and lives of the recipients of their efforts.”
Chris Rhodes is managing director of the Southwest Shakespeare Company. She also serves on the boards of the Mesa Arts Alliance and the Mesa Arts Center Foundation. She’s a former executive director of the Mesa Foundation for Education Excellence and a member of the Philanthropic Educational Organization, which promotes education for women, among other activities.
Rhodes said she was “totally astounded” to learn she’d been named woman of the year. In a nomination, public relations executive Joanie Flatt wrote, “Thanks to Chris’ generosity of time, spirit, money and motivation, thousands upon thousands of Mesa school children have had two decades worth of opportunities in school and in the arts they wouldn’t have had without Chris Rhodes.”
Milt Laflen’s community activities include serving on the PREHAB board for more than 20 years, more than 10 years on the United Way board, as a founding board member of the Municipal Development Corp., a member of Mesa Rotary Club, a volunteer with the Mesa Hohokams and, currently, president of Mesa Sister Cities.
“I do things because I can do them,” Laflen said. “I like to apply my knowledge and expertise, to give back to the community.”
Being named a man of the year is “just a real honor,” he said.
In a nomination, community volunteers Marty and Mary Jo Whalen wrote, “What makes Milt stand out among others is that the Laflen brand of active, purely pro bono volunteerism has always been conducted in a quiet and self-effacing but very effective manner.”
Mike Hughes is executive director of PREHAB of Arizona. Among other community activities, he’s about to begin a fourth term on the Mesa Unified School District Governing Board, is president of the Mesa Arts Academy and serves on boards for the EVIT Foundation and the Helaman Foundation.
“I feel that’s the least I can do is be involved in the community and give back,” Hughes said. “It’s a great community — very supportive, very generous. I feel very humbled and I feel very honored.”
Hughes was nominated by former Mesa City Manager Michael Hutchinson, who wrote that “Mike’s record of community activism and volunteerism stands on its own without regard to his work at PREHAB.”
Tom Rhodes, who co-chairs the committee of past honorees who selected the Citizens of the Year, said eight women and seven men were nominated. Man of the year was bestowed on both Hughes and Laflen because they each received 15 of 30 votes cast by the committee.