2012's Person of the Year: Carolyn Lenert

Winning 48 percent of the vote, this active North San Rafael neighbor took the prize for "2012 Person of the Year."

The last year has been the culmination of several community and planning projects for San Rafael residents. Those who frequented the meetings regarding George Lucas' Grady Ranch production studio or the San Rafael Airport's recreation complex probably saw Carolyn Lenert, San Rafael Patch's "2012 Person of the Year."

Patch readers elected the community leader with 48 percent of their vote. Lenert serves as the chair of the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents, sits on the San Rafael Fire Commission and is known in her community as the one to go to when you have any questions about local government process or planning projects.

"I feel so privileged, but I'm really one in a whole team of people," Lenert said. "I'm honored and humbled that I get to work with so many talented people."

A lone-time Marin resident, Lenert first drew inspiration for community involvement from her active neighbors – a passionate group of Eichler homeowners in Terra Linda. Although she lived in the area since the early 1990s, Lenert became more involved when she started working full-time in Marin in 2001. One of her first projects concerned a creek that ran down her street. She was also the second person in San Rafael to be certified by Community Emergency Response Teams, or CERT, to train people in disaster preparedness.

Since then, Lenert has worked on numerous local projects all focused on planning and public safety, including the revitalization of the Las Gallinas Watershed area, the North San Rafael vision plan, Safe Passage Along Lucas Valley Road, the San Rafael Airport's soccer complex and Grady Ranch.

For many of those projects, Lenert said the goal was to increase communication between the government and its residents, ensure due process of law and educate the community.

"My role was to expedite communication rather than support or oppose a project," she said.

Lenert, who worked in real estate when she was not holding public meetings, said that fun is one of the most important parts of community involvement. "Fun can be a high bar when doing community projects," she said. "But it's so important to remain in a fun and non-toxic environment."

One of the highlights of her work in 2012 was the recently finished Safe Passage along Lucas Valley Road project that had been in the works for six years. The project's goal was to make the sidewalk that continues between Las Gallinas Avenue and Los Gamos Drive safer for pedestrians. The sidewalk now allows neighbors to access bus service at US-101, the 101 Lucas Valley Road office building and Marin YMCA.

"It was so emotional to be cutting the ribbon on that one," Lenert said. "I was almost overcome with so much gratitude."

Mont Marin neighbor Ray Lorber began working with Lenert on the Safe Passage project four years ago. Other than Safe Passage, Lorber was also involved with several projects including AT&T installing antennas in Terra Linda and placing a welcome sign in his neighborhood. "Carolyn is such a resource for the community to go to for help," he said. "She doesn't win them all, but she always battles for the community."

For Lenert, the most rewarding part of her work is the people she gets to meet. Easily recognized on the street by her two dogs, Lenert is now the person to turn to whenever someone has a question.

"It makes my week when I'm walking down the street and someone waves at me," she said. "I think 'That's safety. That's humanity.'"

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