Jean Watt, seen here during tree planting ceremony at the Environmental Nature Center in 2009, was named the Citizen of the Year by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce on Friday night.

Jean Watt, seen here during tree planting ceremony at the Environmental Nature Center in 2009, was named the Citizen of the Year by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce on Friday night. (Michael Chan Yee / November 16, 2013)

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As the reception area at the Balboa Bay Resort on Friday night filled with Newport Beach's political notables, the woman of honor stood in a back corner, being greeted and congratulated.

Several approached her singing a Girl Scout tune, excited for their friend, Jean Watt, who was soon to be recognized officially as the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce's 2013 Citizen of the Year.

About 175 people, including councilmembers current and past, attended the celebration of Watt's contributions to the city as commemorated by the award, which she accepted with humility and gratitude.

"I'm very honored, but I'm very nervous," she said, as the signal was given for the crowd to begin heading inside for the dinner and speeches.

Speakers throughout the night, including family members, continually praised her dedication as an environmentalist and her ability to work respectfully with those she disagreed with.

Throughout Watt's 60-plus years spent living in Newport Beach, the past Girl Scout leader and former City Council member also helped start Stop Polluting Our Newport, formed to defend issues like the need for clean water.

"Jean Watt is a force," said Robert Shelton, a past Citizen of the Year, calling her perceptive, persistent and pleasant.

Her list of civic roles goes on, as outlined in a handout at the dinner: Corona del Mar PTA member, Volunteer Development Director of the Orange County Girl Scout Council, Founder of the Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, board member and secretary for the Orange Coast River Park.

Without Watt's guidance and help securing major donations, maybe the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach would not be where it is today, said ENC Executive Director Bo Glover.

Whenever he was in a bind, Glover said, he always fell to the same mantra: "I need to call Jean Watt."

Not one for the spotlight, Watt took her time at the podium to recognize the citizens of the year who came before her and to thank those who she believed should have made the list but did not, because their viewpoints may have been too controversial.

As the audience prepared to give her a standing ovation, she said, "Now I'm ready to just say thank you."