Chuck Amunrud in front of his Spring Valley home. He will be honored as
2015 Spring Valley Citizen of the Year on Sunday, Oct. 18. PAULA BARNESS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Chuck Amunrud in front of his Spring Valley home. He will be honored as 2015 Spring Valley Citizen of the Year on Sunday, Oct. 18. PAULA BARNESS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE

Kiwanis Citizen of the Year for 2015, Chuck Amunrud, and Deb, his wife of 47 years, have called Spring Valley home for the past 20 years and as they move on to the next chapter of their lives Amunrud took a moment to look back at his time in the city.

“This is our 20th year here, when we bought this house from the historical society,” he said. “We just happened to be in town for the homecoming parade and we drove by and Deb said I want to buy that house, so that’s how we ended up here.”

Since that time the couple worked to create a home within their house, which quickly became their pride and joy.

Eventually, Amunrud would serve two years on the Spring Valley City Council, which eventually led to his run as Fillmore County District 3 commissioner.

“While I was serving on it (the Spring Valley City Council) they did redistricting for the commissioners, so they made the city of Spring Valley all one district,” he said. “The gentleman who was commissioner decided not to run for commissioner, so I was approached by a number of people asking if I would give it a go. So I ran and was elected, was then reelected several times and served for 12 years.”

 When looking back at his accomplishments as commissioner, Amunrud said, “There’s so much. We did a lot; it takes five votes so I was only 20 percent of the board.”

During his years on the board, Amunrud was involved with the remodeling and expansion of the courthouse and its square; numerous highway, road and bridge constructions; the redesign of health and human services; the Association of Minnesota Counties; trying to create a regional jail to save costs throughout the area; getting veterans better services; and numerous other projects.

“I served on about 30 committees in the county and the region while I was commissioner.  I was constantly preparing for a meeting, going to a meeting or reporting on a meeting,” Amunrud said. “I worked with my fellow commissioners to make southeastern Minnesota a better place to be by making improvements. That is a big priority for county commissioners – public safety, public health and social services.”

As a veteran himself, one of Amunrud’s most important legacies was his work on the veterans cemetery in Preston, but he said, “I didn’t do this on my own; I just gathered the people and information together to create the environment that allowed a decision to be made by the Fillmore County board. I was proud to be a one of those members who said lets donate 175 acres of county land that wasn't being utilized to veterans affairs to construct a much needed veterans cemetery.

“One of the highlights, personally, was an interest from the U.S. Congress Subcommittee of Memorial Affairs for the Veterans, of which Tim Walz was active and Congressman John Runyon.  They came and held a formal congressional hearing at the county boardroom in Preston. I was able to testify, as well as the coordinator at the time and other members of our veterans groups here including Steve O' Connor and Nathan Pike. Their efforts through that hearing got our funding put at the top of the list in the United States.”

In 2014, Amunrud made the decision to retire early from his position to focus on his family and health. He now enjoys spending more time with his children, Dr. Todd Amunrud and his wife Joy, and Nicole and husband, Jeremy Benzon, as well his grandchildren.

Closer to home, Amunrud has been just as giving with his time, with one of his favorite projects being the Spring Valley Area Food Shelf.

“The food shelf is something that I’m very proud of; I had been pestering Pastor Dennis Timmerman knowing the need and demand during the recession on the three food shelves that were in our area, because I was on the Semcac board of directors. There was a real need for a food shelf in this area of the county to serve people. So Dennis convinced the Ministerial Association and I helped, along with city administrator Deb Zimmer, Mayor Jim Struzyk, a number of the council members and Kiwanis, to convince the community that there was a need to create a food shelf. I was really happy we could make that happen; it is just a wonderful thing.”

The couple also became active with a youth mentoring program in Spring Valley, as well as Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Kiwanis, Vision 21 and the fundraisers for the library and ambulance facility.

“Deb became active in the garden club and I became sort of a shadow member and a go-fer,” Amunrud joked. “Deb and I really enjoyed building the display around the flag pole, along with the flower club — namely Nancy Cornell and her husband Denis.”

The idea of philanthropy is very important to Amunrud, who said, “You have to get involved if you are going to be a part of the community. We always felt that in order to raise children in a good community, it takes the whole community to the raise children and the children should know that.”

With such a focus on giving back to this community, county and region, it is clear why Amunrud was chosen for the honor of Citizen of the Year, except to Amunrud himself.

“It was really surprising,” Amunrud said of finding out he was named Citizen of the Year. “Rita Bezdicek, who is with Kiwanis, came over and surprised me with that.  I was pretty much in shock. After it settled down it was a very nice feeling.

 “We’ve always been involved with the community in different capacities,” said Amunrud. And he doesn't plan to change that no matter where he is; in fact, he would like to become a veteran’s spokesperson and work with veterans outreach programs.

“My father was a WWII veteran and he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it wasn't something people talked about,” he said. “Now that I've become educated with veterans affairs and have worked with the veterans I want to make people aware of the struggles these veterans are dealing with.”

Amunrud, who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2009, says he wants to be an example to show those struggling with the disorder that they can get through this with some help and therapy.

“I want to say to those veterans, you can get passed this if you open yourself up to allowing those people who are trained to help guide you,” he said.

In the little spare time he has, Amunrud has been going back to school to study organizational behavior, so he can volunteer at hospitals, clinics and self-help groups.

And now as Amunrud and his wife prepare to move on to their next journey he is honored to get such a great send off from the community and Kiwanis.

“It is a wonderful thing to be recognized by the community and by Kiwanis.  I’m very grateful and thankful. It is a very wonderful way of saying thank you for the things my wife and I have done as part of the community. And it gives us a chance to say goodbye,” he said. “We are not leaving permanently; we have many great friends here and we will continue to come and visit. We thought we’d live out our lives here, but our lives have changed so we have to go where we are needed. We look at it as we are turning the page for a new adventure.”

Amunrud will be honored at the Kiwanis Citizen of the Year ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 18, with refreshments being served at 1 p.m. and the program beginning at 1:30 p.m. All donations will be given to the Citizen of the Year Kiwanis Scholarship.