‘Father Bob’ honored for Latino advocacy
Robert Bussen likely does not need awards and honors to validate his service to the Park City area.
He stands as perhaps western Summit County’s most revered person, a man of the cloth whose work with the Latino community is widely respected in the state.
Bussen, the pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church for 12 years, known by scores as ‘Father Bob,’ recently received national recognition for his service in the community, particularly with Latinos.
Bussen received a ‘Distinguished Leadership Award,’ handed out by the Athens, Ga.-based Community Leadership Association.
"I’m proud that the city thinks enough of the work that I do they would nominate me," Bussen said of the decision to submit his name for the honor.
Since arriving at St. Mary’s 12 years ago, Bussen’s stature widened as he became the most notable Latino advocate in Park City, even as a white person. He is credited with advancing Latino issues and providing Latinos with a place to worship.
Bussen, who is 59 years old, graduated from Park City’s Leadership 2000 in 1994, a program meant to train people to become leaders in the community. He is one of scores of Parkites who have participated in the Leadership program, which is seen as a training ground for a diverse group of people, such as public officials and people helming non-profits.
Myles Rademan, City Hall’s Public Affairs director, and Lisa Ward, who co-directs Leadership Park City, nominated Bussen, Rademan said, noting that they were interested in people from Park City whose leadership has been sustained.
Bussen "stood up for the rights of the Hispanic community and the dispossessed," Rademan said, explaining the nomination.
"Often, they don’t have much of a voice," Rademan said.
He remembers some time ago that hints of racism appeared in Park City and Bussen helped try to quell the trend with what Rademan describes as a "very strong moral compass."
Jim Maloney, the executive director of the Community Leadership Association, said the organization honored 47 people with the award in 2006. They were recognized at an April meeting in Hartford, Conn.
Lots of the honors go to members of the clergy, corporate leaders, officials and entrepreneurs, he said. Maloney said Bussen’s work with Latinos was significant as the association considered his nomination.
"That’s one of the ways he stood out in this group," Maloney said.
The association has honored Park City people previously, Rademan said. They have included Dana Williams, who led development watchdog Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth before winning the Park City mayor’s office, and John Hanrahan, from the Hope Alliance and People’s Health Center, among others.
Bussen indicated that the work of Latino advocates is important in the context of the renewed national debate about immigration and the recent demonstrations.
"I don’t think it’s more difficult. What’s difficult right now is the dynamic is changing," Bussen said.
He said people are gravitating toward two camps — those who want a Latino presence in Park City and those who do not — and he acknowledges that the issue is polarizing in Park City.
Bussen said that in the aftermath of the shooting death of St. Mary’s clergyman Aniceto Armendariz in September, another activist for area Latinos, the faithful have slowly returned to worship services. He said attendance at Mass dropped after Armendariz’s death.
"It’s taken a long time for them to feel it’s OK to be here," Bussen said.
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