ROCKLAND — The Rockland Rotary Club honored Brian Harden as the 2019 Community Person of the Year at its recent Change of Command ceremony on Thursday evening, June 27, 2019.
At this ceremony and dinner, the position of Club President was transferred from outgoing President Fred Newcomb to incoming President Eric Hebert. The Community Person of the Year is bestowed upon an individual who is not a Rotarian, yet has performed exemplary community service to his or her community, according to Rotary, in a news release.
This year’s honoree has an extraordinary record of service to his community.
Harden is a true Rockland native, born at the Knox County General Hospital in Rockland, and has lived here nearly his entire life. Community service was instilled into him at young age by his parents, Fred and Inez Harden, when they brought Brian (then age 5), and his brother David to serve hungry patrons at the Maine Lobster Festival. As a side note, Brian’s father, a member of the Rockland Area Junior Chamber of Commerce (the Jaycees), was a moving force that brought the Lobster Festival to Rockland after its debut in Camden, according to the release.
His civic work began with his appointment to Rockland’s Charter Commission in 1974. In 1975, Brian Harden was appointed to and chaired the City’s Bi-Centennial Commission, which planned city celebrations of America’s 200th birthday.
He was appointed the City’s Comprehensive Planning Committee, and he served as Chairman for his entire tenure on the Committee from 1993 to 2000. While on the Comprehensive Planning Committee, he was instrumental in crafting new commercial zoning in the early 1990s to promote business development at a time when Rockland’s economy was facing significant challenges. Under his leadership, the Committee drafted updates to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. That plan, on which he had a major influence, was eventually adopted in 2002, and with only a few amendments since then, is still in effect today.
Harden’s civic duties hit a high point when he ran for City Council in 2000. Because of his vast experience from his past civic and community work, he handily won a seat on the City Council, a seat he would win four consecutive times for a 12-year stint on the Council. He served as mayor for four of those twelve years. His record was progressive, voting time and again to promote common-sense ideas to improve city services, and to promote sensible development while protecting residential neighborhoods. His time on the Council was marked with controversy, but through it all, he led with conviction, and with a deep-seated belief that Rockland is a great place to live and work.
Despite having leadership roles in many organizations, with the notable exception of his time on City Council, much of Harden’s work has been done behind the scenes and away from the limelight. While others often received the accolades for many of positive changes that have occurred in Rockland, many of those changes have Harden’s fingerprints all over them.
Rotary’s Motto is “Service Above Self,” and Harden epitomizes this ideal. In accepting this award, Harden shared this guiding philosophy about his service to the community as follows:
“You can accomplish great things if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
A worthy recipient of this award, Rockland Rotary thanks Harden for his many years of continuing service to the community.
Learn more about Rockland Rotary at www.rocklandrotary.org.