Royal Palm Beach Rotary Club President Evelyn Flores recently announced that the organization’s annual “Citizen of the Year” tribute will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Police Benevolent Association banquet hall, located at 2100 N. Florida Mango Road in West Palm Beach.
This year’s honoree will be Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Michael Gauger, and all proceeds from the annual event benefit local charities.
Each year the RPB Rotary honors an outstanding citizen who has enhanced the quality of life for residents of Palm Beach County through efforts in the private sector, government, charitable endeavors or the arts. Gauger’s public service career spans almost half a century.
Gauger was raised in Illinois on a dairy farm by adoptive parents. He served in the United States Army and then worked his way from Illinois to Palm Beach County by way of Tennessee. After working odd jobs in the area, Gauger was hired as a part-timer at the PBSO.
He met his wife at the PBSO, where she was employed at the time, and they settled in Royal Palm Beach. They are currently Wellington residents.
Gauger earned undergraduate and graduate degrees while working his way through the ranks in the PBSO, where he currently holds one of the department’s top positions.
His accomplishments on the job are many. Gauger advocated for the first neighborhood park in Palm Beach County, built in suburban Lake Worth in the 1970s. His rationale was to provide children a place to go with something to do. He believed that if they did not have something positive to do, they would find something negative to do.
Gauger also developed the first community policing unit in the 1980s and has played a pivotal role in tackling the opioid crisis in Palm Beach County. He experienced first-hand the impact of substance abuse in his family growing up and understands its negative impact.
Gauger has always been a people person and has been highly effective in law enforcement as an advocate for innovative programs that reduce crime and keep people out of jail.
He retired from the PBSO in 2004 only to unretire a year later when newly elected Sheriff Ric Bradshaw asked him to take on the role of chief deputy.
His service to the community extends beyond the PBSO. Gauger has served on numerous charitable and organization boards. He is a past president of the Royal Palm Beach Rotary Club and received the first Peace Award from the Wellington Rotary Club.
Additionally, he has served on the boards of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, Families First and the Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network. Gauger
also serves on the board of the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club in Wellington.
Gauger and his wife are the parents of two children, Mike Jr. and Amanda. The family is active in St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Wellington.
Royal Palm Beach Rotary Club charter member Lynn Balch and Dan Splain are serving as co-chairs of the committee arranging the event. They are assisted by Steve Logan, Keith Jordano, Charlie Borg, Roland Amateis and Jeff Hmara.
Balch expects a sellout crowd. There are sponsorship opportunities for the event at multiple levels. Dinner tickets are available at $100 per ticket by calling Balch at (561) 601-7297 or Splain at (561) 282-6800.