EVERGREEN – Lillian Hinkley doesn’t want to brag, but she believes Evergreen has some of the best people in the Flathead Valley.
“We have the cream of the crop here,” she said, sitting in her kitchen last week.
Lillian, who likes to say she was born on July 4, 1776, but is actually 85, takes pride in her community. She’s been living in Evergreen since moving here with her husband, Don, in 1968, and raised her kids in the same house she lives in now.
With such a history here, it is fitting that Lillian has become Evergreen’s first mayor, an honor bestowed upon her on May 1 at the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce May celebration.
Since Evergreen isn’t an incorporated city, the mayor title is purely symbolic, without duties assigned or a city council to run, Bev Ferris, executive director at the Evergreen chamber, said.
To choose the mayor, anyone could pay $1 and write down somebody’s name on a ticket, which was then drawn from a bowl on May 1. Many people wrote down Lillian’s name, Ferris said.
“Lillian is such a great person,” Ferris said. “It was just such a great honor to have her chosen.”
The May 1 celebration was a way to bridge the gap between the holidays and the summer tourism season, Ferris said, with a big party in the Kmart parking lot in Evergreen featuring games, business booths, and plenty of activities for kids.
More than 1,000 people attended, she said, which was a great start to what she wants to be an annual chamber community event.
The mayor raffle drew over 1,000 tickets, meaning more than $1,000 raised for the chamber, which will celebrate its second anniversary on Aug. 23. In the nearly two years it has been up and running, the chamber has garnered 170 members, Ferris said.
The chamber’s information kiosk in the Kmart parking lot recently received a permanent permit from the county Board of Adjustment, and the chamber was instrumental in getting an industrial zoning overlay approved for the Evergreen businesses on U.S. Highway 2.
It’s been an eventful start for the chamber, Ferris said, and having a mayor seemed fitting.
Lillian said she’s excited to be the mayor, and she wants to use the title to get some projects accomplished. For instance, the intersection on Highway 2 and Evergreen Drive needs a left turn signal, she said.
Upon moving to Evergreen, Lillian and her husband Don built a house in which they would raise their children, Terri, Kim, Bryan and Jill. Don, who passed away in 1981, was the superintendent for Evergreen schools, and worked hard to better their community, she said.
It was their family’s goal to give back and help others, Lillian said, and that’s still a big aspect of her life today. She’s been singing with the Valley Voices choir since its inception about 14 years ago, and she’s very involved with her church. She’s also an active volunteer with Flathead Valley Live on Stage, and loves music.
When she’s not singing or playing solitaire, Lillian is arranging flowers, painting, doing yard work, or otherwise working her way through her house. It’s hard for her to sit still, which she thinks is a blessing.
“I’m gone and helping people all the time,” Lillian said. “To me, isn’t that was life it all about?”
During her nightly Bible study, she’s multitasking by listening to the radio and writing down her thoughts.
On a yellow page of legal paper, Lillian listed her children, her five grandchildren and her great-grandchild, and wrote an inspirational thought in her elegant cursive.
“Life is like a kite,” she wrote. “We need to be lifted up to successfully do God’s work. Peace and blessings to you on your journey.”
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