The city of Utica held its annual Heritage Luncheon Wednesday to honor the city’s rich history, a special guest and some outstanding city employees and citizens.
About 50 city officials and honorees gathered at in Utica for the luncheon, which is always held in honor of Michigan Week.
Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm proclaimed the week of May 15 Michigan Week to promote the state’s heritage and unique features.
As part of Michigan Week, mayors around the state host each other to learn about and from each other.
“One of the best things we get from this event is the networking and sharing,” said Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan. “If we’re not open to new ideas … new ways to do things, we are too short-sighted to make progress. Nobody can say that about Utica.”
Noonan hosted Monroe Mayor Robert Clark Wednesday. Noonan will travel to Monroe on May 24.
Clark, who spent the day touring Utica, said the two cities, although different in size, have a common historic bond.
“We share the same date of 1817 when we were incorporated as a city and also when Utica was founded,” he said.
Before the luncheon Clark, Noonan and other Utica dignitaries took a tour presented by eighth-grade students of .
The students led the group on a walk through the historic downtown area starting on Chapton Street and Cass Avenue and explained the architecture and significance of the historic homes.
Clark said he loved the idea of connecting the students to the city's history and he would like to ask the Monroe Public Schools to get the junior high school students involved in giving tours of Monroe’s national park, the River Raisin Battlefield.
Eppler history teacher Brian Cecil, who facilitated the tour, was among the honorees at the luncheon.
Cecil and Lilian Kostanko, an election inspector in Utica, were awarded for their outstanding volunteer work in the city.
Noonan also gave awards to City Employees of the Year, Utica librarian Marsh Doege and DPW Superintendent Bill Lang.
“More outsiders at times come to the library than residents because they (the librarians) are so nice to deal with,” said Noonan as she presented Doege with her award.
Noonan said Lang came from Sterling Heights and joined the Utica Fire Department before working his way to superintendent of DPW.
“We know a good thing when we see it,” said Noonan, referring to Lang’s talents and willingness to volunteer for extra projects.
Steve Messina of was awarded Business of the Year because the company cleaned up a city demolition project free of charge.
“Thank you for their kind help to a city in financial dire distress,” said Noonan.
Dan Gilmartin with the Michigan Municipal League was given a Special Recognition award for the league's improvement to city services.
Noonan recognized the fact that the city is still able to have the special luncheon in lieu of budget challenges.