Kim Norton honors 14 residents with Mayor’s Medal of Honor
Rochester’s mayor honored people who went above and beyond to serve the community based on community member nominations.
ROCHESTER — In the program’s 39th year, 14 Rochester residents received the Mayor’s Medal of Honor on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2022.
Mayor Kim Norton honored people who went above and beyond to serve the community based on community member nominations.
A special ceremony honored:
Artistic/cultural achievement award: Bharath Wootla
As the owner of the Rochester, MN Instagram page , Bharath showcases the diverse and growing beauty of Rochester's local arts, culture and food scenes with his wife, Alexandra. He shares these photos in support of the city.
Both Bharath and Alexandra are often seen photographing art and culture events and new restaurant openings. Wootla is also an assistant professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic.
Champion of diversity award: Tiffany Alexandria
Alexandria is a community connector through her food blog and photography. Her passion for sharing her native Taiwanese food and culture led her to become a local leader in culture and culinary exploration. She has worked to unite and amplify the voice of Rochester's Asian community, as well as many other ethnic food vendors in the Night Market downtown.
She is a culture-bearer and advocate for local foods, equity, and access to resources for traditionally-underserved entrepreneurs. Alexandria has bolstered area farmers' markets and growers and created a website supporting Rochester restaurants during the pandemic.
Communitywide service award: Dan Fifield
Fifield is known for his compassion, grace and a walking heart while running The Landing MN. Dan and his wife Holly started The Landing in 2018, which supports people experiencing homelessness with steps toward stability. He consistently displays a commitment to building trust with clients.
Educational excellence award: Mary Herbers
The educational award honors Mary Herbers, who passed away on Oct. 31, 2022. While impacting a generation of students, Herbers worked as a paraprofessional at Elton Hills Elementary School for about 18 years. She was uniquely talented and a gift to the Elton Hills community, teachers, students, administration and fellow paraprofessionals.
Herbers loved working with kindergarten students, and making sure they had everything they needed.
Mary's husband Jim Herbers accepted the award in her honor.
Excellence in city service award: James Marsolek
After serving Rochester as a police officer for 14 years, Marsolek is retiring in January 2023. He joined the department's Community Action Team in 2016. CAT works to proactively solve problems while using community partnerships and resources to help make the city a safer place to live, work and play.
Marsolek is known as a community builder with events such as Safe City Nights, Cops and Kids Community Bike Program, Shop with a Cop, the Homeless Outreach Plan, Miracles & Heroes and the Police Athletic/Activities League. The Rochester Police Department also shared of his friendly disposition, genuine care and concern and eagerness to help others.
Excellence in industry award: Aaron Benike
As an industry leader ready to help, Benike was a co-designer in preparing the Global Mayor's Challenge plan, which the city is investing in helping Black, Indigenous, and people of color women have paths into construction . He spent additional hours making sure the needs of the BIPOC community were heard and addressed in the plan.
Benike's continued commitment to women in the field is evidenced by their nomination of their employees and their participation in the NAWIC.
Heroism award: Rose Norman
When Norman saw a young girl walking alone in her neighborhood she knew something wasn't right, and caringly began looking out for the girl as she traveled between shopping centers. The girl, a 9-year-old with severe autistic cognitive disabilities, traveled to Walmart where more searchers helped in the effort. Norman also searched in Walmart, and guided the searchers to the girl's location in the woods behind the store.
The family thanks Norman for her critical actions in keeping the girl safe from serious harm.
Human services award: Rozalina McCoy
Dr. Rozalina McCoy is the medical director of the Mayo Clinic Community Paramedic program. Community paramedics deliver medical care to patients in their homes to prevent unnecessary hospital and emergency department visits.
When COVID struck in March 2020, she quickly pivoted her team to provide medical assessments for the unsheltered population of Rochester to ensure people were receiving timely medical attention. McCoy also created a clinic at The Landing MN to continue providing care.
Legacy award: Barbara Porter Jordan
Jordan is an administrator at Mayo Clinic where she has worked for about 30 years. She currently works with the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Office for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity.
She also is on the Diversity Council, Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust Board of Trustees, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Rochester Area Foundation Board of Trustees, founding Board of the Boys and Girls Club and Rochester Branch of NAACP Leadership and Executive Committee.
As an activist and advocate for diversity and building a more equitable world, she frequently says, “the struggle continues.” And Jordan encourages people to do the work right alongside her.
Mayor’s award: Fatuma Ahmed
Ahmed is a co-founder of Pamoja Women , which amplifies the voices of women and girls of East African heritage while uniting the community. She is a champion in the Somali community and believes in women’s health and women’s rights.
Ahmed is also known for making sure women are heard, and not just seen, as well as fighting for women's empowerment.
Personal achievement award: Sahra Omar
Omar is the owner of Remjoy Special Transportation, a Mayo Clinic employee as an MRI technologist and a 3D imaging post-technologist, and a mother of seven children. Four of her children graduated from Rochester Public Schools, with a fifth graduating in 2023.
She also has a master's degree in public health law, and previously worked at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and the Laureate Institute for brain research as the chief research imaging technologist before moving to Rochester.
Senior/elder achievement award: Kathy Scheid
Scheid is the executive director of Elder Network, a nonprofit providing services to seniors and their caregivers in Southeast Minnesota, including transportation, friendly visiting and caregiver respite. She previously worked with the American Cancer Society and Olmsted County Public Health.
While her time at Elder Network started during the pandemic, she worked to expand services, such as Program to Encourage Active Rewarding Lives, memory cafes and Technology Assistance Program. Scheid regularly researches elderly needs and implements them into improving services.
Sustainability award: Erik Noonan
As a board member of We Bike Rochester, Noonan values safe, sustainable and accessible transportation. He searches for ways to create sustainable infrastructure and transportation, and regularly connects with community leaders.
Youth serving community award: Anushka Kollengode
With a compassionate heart, Kollengode is involved in several activities that match her compassion towards nature, women/girl empowerment and serving humanity, including Girls Scouts, Sri Sathya Sai Education in Human Values Program and Technovation SE MN board.
She has worked as a camp counselor and lead an initiative on the proper disposal of e-waste. Kollengode also built an app about recycling materials in her effort to raise awareness about protecting the environment from climate change.
During the pandemic, Kollengode visited with the elderly at Edenbrook senior living and babysat for first responder's children.
A list of previous Mayor’s Medal of Honor recipients is available on the mayor’s webpage .