Each year as we celebrate our Local Legends, I’m inspired by their unique stories, their collective impact, and the positive perspective they have brought to bear on life’s challenges. Their backgrounds and paths to leadership and influence were so very different—a reminder of the different cultures that make up the tapestry of our region, and how important each is to maintaining a healthy community, a strong economy, and a high quality of life.
If the pandemic has done one thing, it’s forced many of us to re-evaluate what is really important in our lives. Family. Friendship. Health. Happiness. As our daily activities have been dramatically altered, our ability to focus on the future has been muddled by the distractions of our present.
We are experiencing times of great change, as old worlds give way to the new. New generations of youth are rising up and making their voices heard. We are growing. We are evolving. And leaders of all kinds are rising to the occasion. Businesses and organizations are innovating their way through COVID-19. Powerful voices are leading with empathy, seeking economic and social justice, and opening the doors wide for others.
Through it all, we strive to tell these stories of our community—to showcase the best our region has to offer. Congratulations to the winners of our 2020 Best of Peoria competition, who are highlighted in this issue. We are grateful for our Local Legends who have shared their passions, invested in the next generation, and made a real difference in the lives of others. And while we honor three amazing couples this year, we note that “Legends” are not unique to them.
Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll read about Ambassador Alaina Teplitz, Judge Michael Mihm and the late Ambassador William Eagleton—three Peorians playing on the world stage; Dr. Stephen & Patti Bash, who led efforts to create the Hult Center for Healthy Living; Mitchell “JJ” Anderson and the late Dana J. Davis, who gave back to Peoria’s youth; Dr. Romeo B. Garrett and John H. Gwynn Jr., civil rights leaders who challenged their community to be better; and artist Ken Hoffman, whose 50 years in Peoria are being celebrated at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. All are indisputably legends of our community!
As our businesses reopen and we venture outside in this strange year of 2020, we wish you all health and safety. We look to the future with optimism, and we celebrate the enduring legacies of lives well lived. PM