The College Park City Council presented SGA President AJ Pruitt with the Jack Perry Award Tuesday night, making him the first student recipient.
"It's been a great honor and privilege for the past three years to have the opportunity to call College Park my home, and represent students along the way," said Pruitt, a senior economics and government and politics major, when he was presented with the award. "I have continually realized the impact that Councilman Perry had on the city and that I have benefited, along with every student and resident, from his tenure on the council and his time in the city."
The award recognizes "a College Park resident who has participated to an extraordinary degree in neighborhood, civic or municipal affairs within the City in a manner that improves public spaces, fosters community cohesion, eradicates blight, informs discussion of public issues, provides leadership, and/or furthers the best interests of the City as a whole," according to the agenda.
It was established in 2013 in recognition of former District 2 Councilman Jack Perry, who served on the council for a total of 26 years and was "active in the community in numerous capacities," the agenda read.
"Jack was a very hardworking, insightful representative of his community," said Mayor Patrick Wojahn, who served on the council with Perry for two terms, on Friday. "We didn't always see eye-to-eye on things, but he was always straightforward, [and] you could always count on him to have some useful insight on a problem, even if you didn't necessarily agree with him. Similarly, I think AJ comes to the table with good insight and a thoughtful approach, and [is] hardworking, just like Jack was."
Pruitt was nominated for the award by the Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee, which he served as a member on from September 2015 to May 2017. A subcommittee met in late August to select the recipient, which then had to be approved by a majority vote of the full council.
"There was only one nominee this year, but from what I understand the committee that made the selection, they recognized, first of all, that they didn't have to give the award to the one nominee," Wojahn said when presenting the award. "They wanted to make sure that this individual was really deserving of the award and was really somebody who embodied the dedication to service that Mr. Perry represented over his years on the council."
District 2 Councilman P.J. Brennan, who serves as co-chair of the Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee, said before the meeting that "we've all felt the impact" of Pruitt's work, adding that Pruitt played a "very influential role" in seeking this university's cooperation on Title IX funding, among other efforts.
In October 2016, this university announced it would fund six new positions across two offices to further address sexual misconduct. This came after the Student Government Association voted in September to support an annual $34 student fee to help fund the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct, and after SGA executives met with university President Wallace Loh to discuss the issue.
The SGA withdrew the fee proposal later in October 2016, but it could be reintroduced in the future.
"I think the unique thing about AJ's nomination is that you don't need to live here for 30 years to make an impact in this city," Brennan said before the meeting. "He is an example of what you can do with your short time living in our community," noting that Pruitt has only lived in the city since his freshman year.
Pruitt was introduced to the city as the deputy student liaison to the City Council in the 2015-16 school year and acted as "an important bridge between two, often clashing perspectives: those of student residents and non-student residents," according to the nomination letter.
After his tenure as the deputy student liaison, he used his involvement in the SGA to improve public spaces along the Trolley Trail, coordinate regular student cleanup efforts to address city litter issues, and seek and receive a response to fund this university's understaffed Title IX office, the letter read.
"It is with a good degree of honor that I award the Jack Perry Award tonight to AJ Pruitt," Wojahn said.