Even though I’ve lived in the Flathead Valley all of my life, with only a short hiatus to attend college in the Midwest (why do people live there full time?), it wasn’t until I became a county commissioner that I really started to notice who some of the people are that consistently get good things done around here. They may be wealthy, but often are not. When good things are happening, though, they are bound to be involved.
I observed that there are a bunch of really good people quietly going about their lives making the valley, and the world, a better place. These tended not to be elected officials or other political figures whose name we see in the news all the time. Rather, they discretely do their work without drawing attention to themselves. When they see a problem, or have an idea about how something can be improved, they quietly organize to bring about positive change.
One of the good guys I met as county commissioner was Paul Wachholz. Paul was involved in real estate development at the time and so our encounters were frequently with him appearing as petitioner for a proposed subdivision. With some developers this was almost always a somewhat contentious and adversarial meeting, or at least had the potential to devolve into that.
I cannot recall a specific meeting with Paul and his business partners, but neither do I recollect them ever being contentious. I tried hard to apply the applicable land-use laws and findings of facts as best I could to every land-use decision that came before us regardless of the applicants. I always tried to explain the rationale for my decision based upon the law and the findings. Through the lens of that analysis I might very well have voted against a proposal Paul was promoting. I very likely did. I never got the impression that information was being withheld or any of the other tricks employed by some developers in the land-use subterfuge that we call development in the Flathead. Paul, like most of us, wanted to find a solution that worked well for all. I had the impression that Paul might disagree with me, but he understood and respected my decision, and it never became personal. That being said, I very much doubt Paul voted for me.
It is a tribute to Paul’s business acumen and his commitment to our community that he chose, from a plethora of options, to donate to education. What better way to realize long-term positive returns than investing in our leaders of tomorrow? Flathead Valley Community College is a vital and integral part of our community whose strength lies not only in the educational opportunities offered but in its contribution to a diverse and enriching culture in our valley. The college continues to react appropriately in response to community needs, and the addition of the college center project greatly enhances the college’s contribution to the community.
To Mr. Wachholz, I offer a heartfelt and most genuine thank you. Your community involvement and generous donation is a challenge to us all and enormously appreciated. You and your generous contribution are examples of what makes this a great community.
Joe Brenneman is a rancher, farmer and former Flathead County commissioner.
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