If any one person were a household name in Tehachapi, it would certainly be Ed Grimes who has been named "Citizen of the Year" by the Chamber of Commerce and the Tehachapi News for 2012. Just some of the ways Grimes has found to be involved in the community include Mayor of Tehachapi for two terms, 10 years on the City Council, 20 years on the School Board (12 years as chairman), announcer for Warrior football home games, and the driving force behind the 4th of July pancake breakfast. He and his wife, Ruthie, also give a scholarship to a graduating senior each year.
The award will be presented on Jan. 26 during the Chamber of Commerce installation and awards dinner to be held at Villa La Paz, at the National Chavez Center in Keene.
Although he has been named "Father of the Year" in the past, Grimes said he was certainly not expecting this new award. He was called to a special meeting in City Hall and was surprised to see his wife and children there. When they announced that he had been named "Citizen of the Year," he said, "I'm kind of an emotional guy, I have to admit. I had a tear in my eye."
Although he feels it is a great honor to be named Citizen of the Year, Grimes said he doesn't do all the things he does to win accolades or awards.
"I just believe in being involved with the community, and I wanted my kids to see what it was like to be involved as they were growing up." Most of Grimes' activities have been with youth, particularly with athletics. Orphaned at an early age, he said he wanted to work with young people because, as he put it, "when you're a foster child you miss a lot of youth-type things." He and his younger brother lived with eight families in just three years before being placed in a permanent home on a farm in Tehachapi when he was seven and his brother six.
"It didn't take us long to figure out we were there to work," he said, something that was not unusual for foster children in the 1940s. The boys developed a strong work ethic, he said, and actually had fun doing the farm work. He was driving the tractor at age ten. He said they were treated well, and he is grateful for the experience because it taught him the value of hard work.
Grimes has written about his experiences as a youngster in a series of 39 pieces on growing up here called "Memories of the Mayor."
"I wanted people to know what it was like growing up here. I was thrilled to get a letter from a woman who was trying to adopt or foster a child who said the pieces inspired her to keep going through all the red tape it was going to take."
It was tough being a foster child of mixed race in those days, he said. Grimes is half Irish and half Mexican. "I had all the odds against me, but I made it," he said. "Tehachapi taught me togetherness. I got totally involved in my community, and we do things together."
It's that sense of community "togetherness" that Grimes enjoyed most while being mayor.
"It's not an ego thing," he said. When the exchange students from France were here, he loved giving them a tour of the town. Wherever he goes, he gives people his card and offers to show them around if they ever come to Tehachapi.
"This is what makes life worth living," he said. "People appreciate the kindness you show them."
Did his four children learn anything about community involvement from their father?
"They are all involved in the community," he said. "They all left for college, and all came back here to live." His son Ryan is a Physical Education teacher locally and a track coach. Mike Grimes also works for the Tehachapi Unified School District and is involved in youth sports as treasurer, board member and coach for Little League. Daughter Shelley Sottile is a stay at home and Jason Grimes is a special education teacher in the district. All together, they have given Grimes 10 grandchildren.
His daughter in law Kim Grimes was involved in the Junior Miss contest.
Now retired from his position as State Parole Agent III at Cornell Correctional, Grimes said he is "not sitting back in a rocking chair. I am just as involved as ever. Involvement is a key thing."
Last year, Jason enlisted his father to coach the distance runners for the Warrior track team. The team took the Division 2 Central Section State championship.
Grimes has four more years to serve in his present term on the City Council. He has just been appointed vice-president of ACCAPS (Association of California Cities Allied with Public Safety), an organization of cities with prisons. He has also served as chairman of the East Kern Air Pollution Control Board.
"I'm not slowing down," he said with a smile.