Being named citizen of the year by the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce last month came as a big surprise to Hermann Welm.

The former San Ramon mayor, city councilman, planning commissioner and retired land use consultant says he has too much fun with the volunteer work that consumes much of his days. The impact of his contribution to the community may be secondary to him but is of great benefit to San Ramon and beyond. It's the community that benefits from his contribution of his time and talents to the Rotary Club of San Ramon, the San Ramon Regional Medical Center, the Lindsay Wildlife Museum and the Blackhawk Chorus.

Members of the chamber recognized Welm and fellow nominees Lynnette and Scott Gerbert, and Bekki Livingston for Citizen of the Year for their achievements and dedication to improving the community at the annual business and community awards program. He joins a long list of exemplary citizens including last year's recipient, Shirley Ernest, and past winners including Mike Conklin, founder of Sentinels of Freedom.

Also recognized was Mary C. Whipple, the business person of the year; California High School Principal Mark Corti, educator of the year; Darlene Kittredge, employee of the year; Sunset Development Company, green company of the year; and Christian Claytor, ambassador of the year.


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The bottom line is that Welm loves the community, the city and the great friendships he has created and nurtured over the years.

"I enjoy being busy," says the German-born Welm, who immigrated to New York with his family when he was 10. After college, six years in the Navy with service in Vietnam and a master's degree from Notre Dame, his career eventually took him to San Diego. By 1978 he and wife, Suzette, were calling San Ramon their home. They have two grown children and four grandchildren.

Welm said he intentionally "ramped up" his volunteer work as he scaled back his land use consulting work in anticipation of his retirement in 2009. As a result he hit the ground running after retiring and he fills his days with activity and friends.

A talented woodworker who is "the happiest when I have a project in my workshop," Welm has put his skills to use by building display cabinets for the San Ramon Historic Foundation and several projects and repairs for the Wildlife Museum, where he is a wildlife rehabilitation volunteer.

He jokes that he is "on call" for brain surgery at the San Ramon Regional Medical Center, and while waiting for "the call," he volunteers several hours a week distributing and collecting meal menus to the patients and assisting patients with their selections.

"I get things done that wouldn't get done otherwise," says Welm. He adds that he is proud of this fact and that others rely on his work, such as when he built a new receiving counter at the Lindsay Museum. He particularly enjoys woodworking projects and 'building things that have permanence." One of his goals, in fact, is to continue building furniture. "Every piece gets fancier and better."

Whether he is at the medical center, caring for injured birds in his backyard aviary or orphaned squirrels at the wildlife hospital, working with fellow Rotarians on service projects or sharing his gift for song with the Blackhawk Chorus, Welm says he is having a good time.

"It's serendipity," he adds. "I enjoy the people, and if I don't, I can quit," he says with a smile, but he's having too much fun to stop anytime soon.

MONEY MATTERS: The San Ramon branch of AAUW is hosting a free program about "Money Matters At Every Stage -- A guide for women who want to expand their investment confidence" on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Alcosta Room at the San Ramon Community Center.

Guest speaker Diane Woodward, an independent certified financial planner, will talk about how women can save, invest and plan for their future. For details, visit www.sanramon-ca.aauw.net.

Contact Monica Lander at landerfamily@comcast.net.