They came from near and far to little Big Bear Lake at the top of the San Bernardino Mountains. Liz Harris, former Big Bear Lake mayor, San Bernardino County Supervisor field representative, educator and more, was honored by the Bear Valley Community Healthcare District as the 2019 Helen Walsh Humanitarian of the Year.
They came to honor Harris for her many contributions to the Big Bear Valley community — as a government official, an educational and environmental advocate, as a mentor and as a friend.
Phil Hamilton, who has worked with Harris as a member of the Big Bear Valley Education Trust, was one of several guest speakers who talked about Harris’ untiring dedication to do good things for Big Bear.
“You’ll notice I have my ‘proudly I can’t say no to Liz Harris’ T-shirt on,” Hamilton said. “We used to try to say no to her but we finally just gave up. It didn’t make sense. She was so persistent.”
Hamilton credits Harris with the preservation of hundreds of acres of pebble plains in Big Bear Valley.
Michael Perry, who was Big Bear Lake city manager when Harris was mayor, talked about her diligence in making decisions during the Old Fire evacuation in 2003.
California Assembly members Jay Obernolte and James Ramos each spoke about Harris’ influence on their political careers.
Helen Walsh, who was the first recipient of the award that now bears her name, said Harris was a great choice for the honor. “One thing I know about Liz, whatever she is doing, she always has in her mind to make sure it is something that benefits the community,” Walsh said.
Holly Elmer, president of the Bear Valley Community Healthcare District Foundation, presented Harris with a crystal statue of an angel’s wing.
In her acceptance speech, Harris turned the tables on the guest speakers, praising those who had praised her accomplishments. “I love watching what you’re doing,” she said to Obernolte. “You and I aren’t always on the same page, but you know what I really appreciate? ... No. 1, you always listen. And No. 2, you reach across the aisle.”
“I got that from you,” Obernolte said.