This past Sunday the family of Councilman Bill Schultz invited the community to join them to celebrate Bill’s life. The event drew a couple hundred of Bill’s friends, family and colleagues. Although Bill was not born in Kent, it was clear from all the speakers who spoke so fondly of him that Kent is where he belonged, where he discovered his calling and where he found his soul mate. My time with Bill was short but I am grateful for the chance he gave me to serve as Kent’s City Manager and I am thankful for the few hours I spent learning from Bill on a hot summer day drinking lemonade and talking city business. My only regret is that I didn’t get to know Bill the person as much as I knew him as Bill the Councilman — and as good a Councilman as he was, he was a much more remarkable person.
The older I get the harder it is to sustain that optimism of youth that is worn down by the daily tide of disappointments and missed opportunities we all face in our lives. Somehow Bill seemed to see through all the garbage of the daily grind — and God knows he must have had a lot to grind through — but he seemed to have a knack for keeping his eye on what could be. Despite, or maybe because of his physical limits Bill seemed to have developed a sixth sense of right and wrong. And I don’t mean the little right and wrong stuff, I mean the big right stuff, like humanity right. He cared about people, he helped people, he did the right things for people when they needed it most.
Don’t get me wrong, Bill wasn’t some utopian cheerleader — he was more like E.F. Hutton, when he talked people listened. They didn’t listen because he had some great physical presence or booming voice; they listened because what he said mattered.
From the stories told at his ceremony, it was clear that Bill learned early on to not take a minute of life for granted. In his younger years he was impulsive enough to jump in a car with his friends and ride to wherever the mood took them. He spent time with Buddhists in Tibet, and yes, the Sherpa carried him on their backs high up into the Himalayan Mountains to get him there. He met with an Indian Shaman in the desert to reconnect with Mother Earth. The amazing stories of escapades went on but I felt like an intruder as I never knew that side of Bill. And that’s perhaps the saddest part. I knew so little about this person that I saw week in and week out.
With all the distractions we have in modern life, I wonder if we’ve let ourselves wander so far that we’ve lost our way. Listening to the stories of Bill’s life, and reflecting on my own, I was reminded of the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken.” It seems to me that Bill may not have originally chosen to take the path he travelled but once he found himself on it, he lived it to the fullest. And as the poem says that has made all the difference.
|Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.|
|1. The Road Not Taken|
Bill exemplified all that is good in Kent. He was part hippie, part rebel, part intellectual, part blue collar and part councilman. And in those many parts, he was all Kent.
I will miss Bill and so will Kent.
Next week (January 23) City Council will interview prospective candidates to serve out the remainder of Bill’s 2 years on Council.