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Former Gwinnett public utility head wins Legacy Award

DULUTH - Ron Seibenhener, the winner of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful's Environmental Legacy Award, knows exactly what he's going to do with the statue he received for the honor.

"It's beautiful, it's absolutely gorgeous," he said. "I'm going to turn it over to my wife."

Seibenhener, the retired president of the engineering firm Jordan, Jones and Goulding and the former director of Gwinnett County Public Utilities was honored Friday for his forward thinking when it came to the county's water quality and water supply.

Jim Steele, the chairman of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful's board, called Seibenhener the brains behind Gwinnett's current water quality levels. Seibenhener created a 50-year water plan for the county, projecting Gwinnett's growth, and Steele said because of his vision, Gwinnett has permits to withdraw all the water it needs from Lake Lanier.

"He looked to the future and planned for it," Steele said. "He's very quiet; you'd never know it. Unassuming. Still water runs deep."

Connie Wiggins, the director of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, recalled a role-playing game Seibenhener created for children at a conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. At the end of the session, Wiggins said, several officials - Seibenhener included - had tears in their eyes.

Seibenhener also created the Adopt a Stream program in the state.

"He's a visionary," Wiggins said. "He said we have to tie water planning with land use. ... Rather than planning in silos, he really was connecting all the dots."

Seibenhener said he was surprised to receive the award. Past winners have included former county commission chairman Wayne Hill, former state Environmental Protection Division Chief Harold Reheis, former Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Wayne Shackelford, Department of Natural Resources board member Tom Wheeler and John D. Stephens of Stephens M.D.S.

"Having not expected it, I haven't had time to think about it," Seibenhener said. "I'm very honored that they would think any of those kind words about me."

Other honorees at the 28th annual program included Sheriff Butch Conway as volunteer of the year and Ricoh Electronics Inc. as recycler of the year. J.G. Dyer Elementary School was honored with the education award, while Duke Realty Corporation received the Howard Allen Business and Industry Award.

The environmental improvement award went to the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, while the Vintage Pointe Neighborhood Association took the Neighborhood Pride Award. The city of Lawrenceville's police department won the enforcement award.

Steele said the event is a way for Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful to say thank you to its many volunteers.

With more than 370 people in attendance, Wiggins said the banquet was the best attended Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful had seen.

"You could see and feel the energy and passion that the people here have for their community," she said.