Former Spokane Valley Councilman Bill Gothmann has been keeping busy since he decided not to run for re-election in 2011, but he’s had to clear space on his calendar next Saturday. That’s the night the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce will present him with the 2012 Harry E. Nelson Citizen of the Year award at its annual awards gala.
Gothmann said his phone call from chamber president Eldonna Shaw announcing the award left him stunned.
“I know who has gotten it in the past,” he said. “I was surprised they considered me. I’ve always been the behind-the-scenes guy.”
The recipient of the annual award is selected by a group of previous winners, which include former mayors, school superintendents and community leaders. “I think the world of them,” Gothman said. “These are people who literally built the city.”
But Gothmann also helped build the city. The former engineer and professor served on the roads transition committee before the city incorporated. When the city was created in 2003 he served on the first planning commission. He was elected to the City Council in 2005 and served until he retired at the end of 2011.
“To me, that was one of the greatest opportunities in my life,” he said of his early work with the city.
It was time to let someone younger take over, Gothmann said. While he was serving on the council he didn’t take care of himself physically, he said. “I’m 75-years-old,” he said. “It’s about time I started.”
Over the summer he donned his bicycle helmet and hit the road, putting more than 1,300 miles on his bike. Gothmann said he lost 50 pounds.
He has put that newfound passion for cycling to good use. He is serving on the city’s 10th anniversary committee and is helping organize the Spokane Valley Cycle Celebration, an anniversary bike ride this summer. The ride will have 10-, 25- and 50-mile routes. Valleyfest has agreed to lend its 501(c)3 status to the event, which Gothmann said he hopes will become an annual event.
“There’s no reason we can’t do this,” he said. “Spokane Valley has beautiful rides.”
Gothmann has also spent his time traveling with his wife, Myrna, and serving on the SNAP capital campaign committee. He has also invested in a Nook and begun reading novels. “For the first time in my life, literally, I’ve been able to read fiction,” he said. “I think high school was the last time. I never took the time.”
Gothmann said he has tried to limit his community involvement. He rarely turns up at a council meeting anymore. “I just wanted to back off and get my life together,” he said. “I’ve been taking it real easy. I’ve been enjoying life.”