The Denison City Council recognized Susie Munson for her efforts with the city’s Sister Cities program, by awarding her with the Moving Forward, Giving Back award Monday Night. The award, which was created in 2016, recognizes exceptional efforts and volunteerism within the Denison community.

“It is to do just what it says — moving forward while giving back — in tune with our city theme of kicking back,” Mayor Jared Johnson said during Monday’s City Council meeting. “It is not just for ordinary volunteerism, but is reserved for exceptional work and dedication on a project.”

Johnson said the award was to recognize Munson’s efforts and involvement with the Sister City program, which recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Denison becoming sisters with Cognac, France. Munson served as the first chairwoman for the program and has remained in a leadership role since its inception.

Johnson said the award was a surprise for Munson, who was unaware that she was to be recognized at the meeting. Instead, Munson said she was there for an update on a recent visit by dignitaries from Cognac in October.

“I was very surprised,” she said Tuesday morning while holding back laughter. “My husband Ben said they were just going to discuss Sister Cities and I needed to be there.”

While the two cities were “twinned” in the early 1990s, the relationship between Cognac and Denison goes back more than a century. In the late 19th century, horticulturalist T.V. Munson helped provide rootstock that was resistant to phylloxera parasites that had destroyed much of the French wine-producing grape stock. For these efforts, T.V. Munson was named Chevalier du Merite Agricole of the French Legion of Honor.

With the Moving Forward, Giving Back award, Johnson recognized Munson’s recent efforts in bringing a delegation from France to Denison during the Eisenhower birthday weekend. This is the third time a mayor from Cognac has visited Denison since the cities became twins.

Munson said Eisenhower’s birthday weekend was chosen for the visit due, in part, to his involvement with creating what today is known as People to People International.

The visit was first discussed in 2016 when Johnson and representatives from Denison went to Cognac to celebrate the town’s 1,000th anniversary.

Beyond acting as a symbol of goodwill and promoting peaceful cultural exchange, Munson said the partnership with Cognac also has offered educational opportunities for Denison students. Each year, about six students are able to visit Cognac as a part of a foreign exchange program between the cities, she said.

This represents just the fourth time that the award has been presented since it was created in early 2016. The first recipient of the award was Dean Spader, who helped coordinate a petition campaign to reduce the city’s alcohol restrictions that lead to a successful vote in 2015.

Almost a year later, the Denison Animal Welfare Group was recognized for its efforts to advocate for animals within the city and reduce the number of animals that are euthanized. In January, Don Banman was recognized with the award at the Denison Development Alliance Economic Summit for his efforts with the downtown Denison Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, Main Street Advisory Board, and other organizations.