Sue McDowell, who has been cleaning up in front of the San Anselmo Post Office for five years, has been named a Silver Award winner.
The award, aimed at “unsung heroes” who have benefited the town without expectation of recognition or reward, was unanimously voted at a recent Quality of Life Commission session.
It will be presented at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the Town Council meeting.
McDowell, a retired longtime Ross Valley School District junior high teacher who’s lived in San Anselmo since 1972, light-heartedly says passersby and former students have three misconceptions about her volunteer broom-wielding.
“I do not work for the Post Office. I do not own the building. Much to my students’ disappointment, I am not required to do ‘community service’ because I committed a crime.”
The reason she started sweeping up leaves and debris at the Post Office is simple:
“It was dirty, and no one else was doing it.”
She seriously adds, however, that it’s really “just my way of saying ‘thank you’ to all who make living in San Anselmo so special.”
At the same time, McDowell’s pet peeves are cigarette butts people stick in flowerpots she placed near a bench outside the building, and “doggie poop bags left on the ground for someone like me to pick up.”
This time of the year, the 70-year-old sweeps every day — right after she exercises at Elan. In other seasons, she says, “I drive by and see if it looks good. If it doesn’t, I sweep.”
Her tools? “An old push-broom, an old regular broom and a dust pan.”
McDowell originally dumped her small collections of trash into plastic bags inside the Post Office but later decided it would be better yet if she took “it home and put it in my stuff.”
Besides the delight of “seeing my regulars every morning,” she says, she relishes the several times she’s raised the American flag over the Post Office.
“In the small Idaho town where I grew up,” she remembers, “only the Boy Scouts got to raise the flags, and I was a Camp Fire Girl and we were not ever trusted to do that.”
The joys of flag-raising, her volunteer clean-up time and occasionally running into an ex-student, she says, combine to make her “a happy camper.”
McDowell, who’s been president of the local teachers’ union, will become the 25th winner of the Silver Award.
Previous recipients were Phyllis Ostrander, Carla Overberger, Judy Coy, Kathy Thornton, Dick Stutsman, Nancy Vernon, Barbara Dwyer, Peter Penhallow, the husband-and-wife team of Teri and Alex Rockas, Eli Welber and Steve Lee, Grace Komo, Ben Burtt, Royce Truex and Jo Gross, Michael Schwab, Deborah Cichocki, Kay Peacock, Frank Ortiz, Tom Boss, the husband-wife team of Patricia and Chuck Swensen, Bill Abright, Cynnie Barrows, Marilyn Girodo, Sophia Spencer and Dollie Frauens.
Silver and the more environmentally oriented Green Awards are handed out in alternate months. Nominations can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com — or mailed or hand-delivered to the Quality of Life Commission c/o the Town of San Anselmo, 525 San Anselmo Ave.