As I reflect on my past year as Pleasant Hill's mayor, one thing comes to mind: "It was a very good year!"

The 42nd annual Community Awards Night was held Jan. 17, at Back Forty Texas BBQ restaurant. A total of 18 nominations were submitted for the six competitive award categories.

The winners were Leanne Hamaji, Citizen of the Year; the Community Focus, Business of the Year; Helena Encarnacion-Strand, Teen of the Year; and Aida Attiga, Educator of the Year. The Mayor's Award went to Lesley Stiles and the Teen Council. Congratulations to all of these very deserving winners.

At the Mayor's Breakfast on Feb. 7, I launched the Pleasant Hill Education Initiative -- a multiyear volunteer effort to enhance the quality of education for students in our schools.

In only eight months, the initiative has signed up more than 70 school volunteers to assist with Reading Readiness and other in-school programs; hosted a career night at College Park; a Navigating Middle School Forum; and sponsored the Night of a 1,000 Inventions at the Pleasant Hill Library.

We have welcomed a variety of great new businesses to Pleasant Hill, including Zachary's Pizza and The Corner Bakery, both in Downtown Pleasant Hill; Country Waffles at the Crossroads Shopping Center; and my wife's favorite, Nordstrom Rack on Contra Costa Boulevard.

Our Retail Marketing Incentive Program has enabled 13 local businesses to increase their revenues and promote their products to a much larger customer base.


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And check out our new ShopPleasantHill.org website and Facebook page which is full of information on dining, shopping and events in Pleasant Hill.

Pleasant Hill is blessed with an abundance of festivals and events, which provide great family entertainment throughout the year. Here are just a few that I would like to highlight.

  • The farmers market continues to grow in its new location in the Downtown Plaza next to Jack's Restaurant. The Saturday morning market is now a mainstay of events in the downtown area, and we are hoping that the market will eventually operate on a year-round basis.

  • Along with Republic Services, the Civic Action Commission organized the inaugural Citywide Garage Sale in May, with the tagline "Don't Trash It -- Sell It."

    More than 170 homes participated in the event, which gave residents an opportunity to protect the environment and conserve resources by reusing household items.

  • The 16th season of the Sunset by the Lake Summer Concert Series ran from Memorial Weekend through Labor Day this year on the lawn at City Hall. An estimated 6,000 people attended the eight concerts hosted by the Civic Action Commission.

  • The city co-sponsored the popular Downtown Plaza Concert Series each month from June through September with great music and a very lively and fun atmosphere in the downtown.

  • The Fourth of July celebration is one of the signature events in Pleasant Hill with a full day of activities, including the Firecracker Run, downtown parade, party at the park and fireworks at College Park in the evening. I congratulate Allen Vinson and the Fourth of July Commission on a job well done again this year.

  • The ninth annual Community Service Day was held at the end of September when more than 1,000 volunteers worked on 33 projects around the city. The list of projects and accomplishments are too numerous to mention, but I am especially grateful to everyone who participated in this wonderful community event.

  • The 11th annual Art, Jazz & Wine Festival was a huge success this year for the Chamber of Commerce. The two-day event features live music, arts and crafts, a children's entertainment area, and premium wine pavilion in the Downtown Plaza, and also brings thousands of residents and visitors to downtown Pleasant Hill.

  • The Hospice Tree of Lights ceremony returns to Pleasant Hill this year. We conclude the year by celebrating the holidays at our annual Light Up the Night festival, which includes carriage rides, music, and a visit from Old St. Nick. And my favorites, hot cocoa and cookies. (Sorry, Santa.)

    Using almost entirely grant money, our fabulous Engineering Department has completed the Geary/Pleasant Hill Road intersection improvement project, resurfaced some of our worst streets, and moved forward to completing the Buskirk Avenue project by next September.

    None of this would've been possible without the hard work and dedication of our wonderful staff and hundreds of volunteers, who love our city as much as I do. Thanks for all you do.

    Yes, it's been a very good year.

    It has been an honor and a pleasure serving as your mayor. Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity.

    My best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy holiday season.

    Harris is the mayor of Pleasant Hill. Email him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.