Walt Raysick, recipient of the 2021 Key Citizen Award, marching in full uniform at the 2009 Greater Brandon Fourth of July Parade. (Photo credit: Linda Chion.)

By Linda Chion

Walt Raysick said he was “honored and humbled” to have received the 2021 Key Citizen Award, which was presented in July.

Since its inception in 1977, the award has been given annually to a citizen for “unselfishly” contributing “time and effort for the betterment of the Brandon community rather than for personal gain.”

The involvement must be consistent over a period of at least five years and in a number of well-rounded activities, with an emphasis on the immediate past year, according to Betty Jo Tompkins, who, as executive director of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, helped establish the award in 1977 with the chamber’s then-chairman of the board, Julian Craft.

“This was not to be an award for volunteer work with the chamber, we made that very clear,” said Tompkins, who has worked 18 years at the chamber. “The award is for people in the Greater Brandon area who have been extremely involved in a wide spectrum of activities, with each year’s winner selected by the previous winners.”

This year, the award, traditionally bestowed at the chamber’s annual dinner in January, was announced on July 21 at the Chamber Member Awards dinner at The Regent in Riverview.

Raysick said he was invited to the dinner under the pretense of speaking with Dave Braun about master plans and expansions for the Hillsborough County Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral Leroy Collins Jr. Museum in Tampa. Braun, who was named Key Citizen in 2018, volunteers many hours to the effort along with Raysick, who ended up missing the July 21 dinner.

“I called Dave to tell him I couldn’t make the dinner because of a medical emergency, which is when he told me about the award I was about to receive,” Raysick said. “I felt very humbled, and apologized profusely, and for sure I would have wanted to be there in person to collect the award.”

Retired 30 years ago as a master chief petty officer from the U.S. Navy, Raysick said he served in Vietnam in 1969-70 and was assigned two tours of duty with the U.S. Marines through the Fleet Marine Force.

“It was for a sense of duty and pride,” Raysick said about his commitment to military service. “I always wanted to give back, and all my uncles on my mother’s side were World War II veterans.”

Upon moving to Brandon in 2004, Raysick said he “immediately got involved with programs and patriotic events,” noting his involvement that includes volunteerism with the Greater Brandon Fourth of July Parade, Hillsborough County Veterans Council, AMVETS Post 44, American Legion Post 148, Marine Corps League Detachment 1226, Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay and both the Brandon Chamber’s Military Affairs Council and the Riverview Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee.

“I believe everybody when they retire needs to do some kind of nonprofit service,” Raysick said. “Volunteerism will keep your mind sharp.”

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