For "the first time in a long, long time," Carol Whiteside said she recently read a novel, a novelty made possible by her retirement from the nonprofit Great Valley Center she founded in Modesto 11 years ago.
Thursday, the former mayor and governor's Cabinet member will leave her easy chair to accept her think tank's highest honor at its annual conference in Sacramento.
For the first time since the group began honoring living legends with Sequoia Giant of the Valley Awards in 2001, the Great Valley Center will honor one of its own. Previous recipients include McClatchy Co. founder James McClatchy, former Olympic decathlete and U.S. Rep. Bob Mathias and Sierra Nevada Brewery Co. president Ken Grossman.
Whiteside, 65, was a homemaker when she won a seat on the Modesto City Schools board in 1978. She later was elected to the Modesto City Council and served as mayor before joining Gov. Wilson's administration in 1991, returning to Modesto six years later to establish the Great Valley Center.
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The nonprofit's mission is improving the well-being of the 19-county valley, which stretches from Redding to Bakersfield. It joined forces three years ago with the University of California at Merced.
"All of us who live and work in this region are fortunate to have had the benefit of Carol's experience, wisdom and extraordinary insight," said Bakersfield agribusinessman Mark Burrell, the Great Valley Center board member who will present Whiteside's award.
She continues to serve as board chairwoman of the Sierra Health Foundation and sits on the boards of the Public Policy Institute of California, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. And Whiteside still has a hand in several Great Valley Center projects.
"I'm not knitting yet," she said.
On the Web: www.greatvalley.org.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2390.