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Home is Where the Heart is for Durnen

Jill Durnen will be presented the Citizen of the Year award at Friday's Saline Salutes banquet.

Ask Jill Durnen why she works so tirelessly to make Saline a better place. First, she’ll deflect the praise. But eventually, she'll make it plain.

“Saline is my home. Saline’s downtown is my downtown. I grew up here. My grandfather started our family business here,” said Durnen, an owner at Hartman Insurance Agency.”

For the 2012 Saline Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, it’s as simple as that. Durnen is among Saline’s best and brightest citizens who will be honored at Saline Salutes, held at 5:30 p.m., Friday, April 13, at

The accolades don’t come easy for Durnen, who helped give the awards away at Saline Salutes in 2011 when she was president of the chamber’s board of directors. While honored, she said she was also a little embarrassed.

“I don't get involved in the community for awards and recognition. But on the flipside, it's flattering that people have noticed the things you're doing and that they let you know that they appreciate it,” said Durnen. “There are a lot of really great people who’ve done a lot of work for Saline on the list of past winners, so it’s really an honor.”

Durnen, a 1990 graduate of Saline High School, joined , founded by her father Milton Hartman in 1946, after graduating from Western Michigan University. She and her father, Alan, run the business today on North Ann Arbor Street, The business won the chamber’s Business Enterprise Award in 2010.

The Citizen of the Year goes to someone who has contributed a significant amount of time during 2011 within the community in a volunteer capacity. Few people dedicate more time to the community. And according to Karen Ragland, president of the chamber board, nobody does it with more enthusiasm.

“She’s really a breath of fresh air. She brings such a positive energy to everything she does,” said Ragland, who has worked with Durnen on everything from Michigan Main Street to the Music Under the Arch series.

When people are asked about Durnen’s dedication, they often talk about her generous heart.

“Jill is homegrown. She’s from Saline. Her heart is dedicated to making a Saline a great community and she’s done that by serving in many leadership roles,” said Mayor Gretchen Driskell. “She’s an amazing woman and it’s a privilege to be able to work a woman of her passion and energy. Durnen and dedicated citizens like her are why Saline is a great place to be Mayor.”

Chamber of Commerce Director Larry Osterling has worked with Durnen since she first served on the board in 2007.

“She’s a great person whose heart is in the community. She’s terrific to work with,” he said.

Durnen’s first foray into community service came after returning to Saline following graduation from college.

“When I joined the company, my grandfather gave me a year to get acclimated and then told me I was joining Saline Rotary,” Durnen said. “I barely even knew what Rotary was and I was the youngest member.”

Durnen became president of Saline Rotary Club in 2001 and again in 2007. She still serves as Club Administrator.

She decided to get involved with the chamber and was elected to the board of directors in 2007.

“Hartman Insurance had always been a member, but we weren’t really active. I decided to get involved. Rotary was a service organization that helped the less fortunate. The chamber appealed to me in a different way, because we were helping local businesses,” Durnen said.

In the last year, while serving Rotary Club and serving as chamber board president, she also helped launch the Music Under the Arch Series and played a key role in brining to Saline.

For a busy person like Durnen, the benefit of Michigan Main Street is simple.

“They’ve already got the model figured out, so we don’t waste time trying to reinvent the wheel, we can focus on getting things done,” said Durnen, who said the community will become excited as more people join Main Street committees and learn what’s available.

Durnen, who live in York Township with her husband Kerry, joked that she also finds a way to squeeze in time for her business, which she said is picking up as the economy stabilizes.

Friday's Saline Salutes banquet starts at 5:30 p.m.

WILLIAM SMITH, JR. April 14, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Congratulations Jill - you deserve it!
Phil Klemett April 14, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Great job, Jill! Uncle Phil
Kathy Kind April 17, 2012 at 11:06 AM
I'm so proud of you! Love, Mom

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