When the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce announced last month that Chuck Stocker had been named Citizen of the Year for 2011, it became clear that defining the honoree’s many civic contributions would be a challenging task.
A former assistant superintendent with the Central Valley School District, Stocker spent time as a superintendent in the East Valley and Freeman school districts. He also worked for years in community outreach for Inland Power and Light Co. and has donated time on numerous boards and committees. Add in titles like volunteer coach, Rotarian and president of the Northeast Association of Washington School Administrators and it was evident that the chamber had made the right pick, even though former Spokane Valley Mayor Mike DeVleming emphasized that accolades are not part of the most recent selection’s priority list.
“People like Chuck aren’t doing this for the recognition – they’re involved because it’s the right thing to do and they know it’s important for the community,” said DeVleming. “’Community educator’ is the best definition for Chuck. He’s a motivator.”
DeVleming, who was named Citizen of the Year in 2004, recalls attending one of his first meetings as new representative of the Valley Chamber some 20 years ago. Stocker, a veteran of the chamber, took the time to talk and listen.
“He was just very unselfish,” DeVleming said. “He told me, ‘This group needs your voice’ and asked me what I wanted to accomplish.”
Stocker will be presented with the award named after Spokane Valley Herald co-founder Harry E. Nelson at the Gem of the Valley Gala on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Mirabeau Park Hotel. Previous winners include Peggy Doering, Ian Robertson, Norma Ventris and the late Joe Custer.
“I know these people and I’m tremendously honored to be included in this group,” said Stocker.
When asked about his professional accomplishments, Stocker is more likely to bring up the topic of family. He and his wife Lu have been married for 50 years. They have four grown children and 11 grandchildren.
Stocker was born and raised on a dairy farm in Snohomish, a suburb of Everett. After high school, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from Washington State University and later received his teaching certificate. After serving in the U.S. Army, Stocker began his teaching career at Central Valley High School in 1964, where he was hired as a vocational agriculture instructor.
Stocker credits Bill Ames Sr., former CVHS principal, with encouraging him to consider a career as an administrator. He would go on to earn his certification as a principal and superintendent, serving as assistant superintendent with the Central Valley School District from 1974 to 1987.
While at CVSD, Stocker helped implement an affirmative action program that he said helped to “break down stereotypes.” As a new soldier in the early 1960s, he had been stationed briefly in the Southern states like Florida and Georgia where prejudice and bigotry were still rampant. He also was a catalyst in establishing an employee assistance program at Central Valley that provided support and resources for staff in a variety of areas.
After Central Valley, Stocker moved on to the Freeman School District where he replaced Dennis Przychodzin as superintendent. He served from 1987 to 1991, helping to lead a successful capital facilities initiative that had failed on two previous ballots. In a rural district that covers 150 square miles and includes small communities like Valleyford, Mica and Rockford, Stocker hit the road, dropping by farms and orchards to promote quality schools.
Jan Davis, who has worked in the Freeman front office for over 20 years, said Stocker was “a charismatic leader who really put the district on the map.”
“He made it a point to meet with every group in the area,” Davis said. “He spent time in each of the communities visiting with these people.”
Stocker was named superintendent of the East Valley School District in 1991 and proceeded to establish new programs in alternative education and counseling while being part of a victorious election that generated capital funds for renovations at several schools.
After retiring from education in 1998, Stocker joined Inland Power and Light on a part-time basis, strengthening ties with nearly 100 of the company’s key accounts throughout the region. Kris Mikkelson, Inland CEO, said Stocker gave the company “a public presence that we didn’t have before.”
“Chuck has such a great personality,” Mikkelson said. “He can walk into a room and know everyone and where they went to high school. He became Inland’s face in the public arena.”
Stocker joined the board of the HUB Sports Center over a year ago and has been part of the resurgence of a once-beleaguered venue that is now recognized as a regional destination point. HUB Executive Director Phil Champlin described Stocker as a “wonderful gentleman” who has been “a valuable addition” to the cause.
“Chuck has a tremendous background and he’s so well known in the community,” Champin said. “It’s an honor to have him on our board.”
Another Chuck – Spokane Valley City Council Member Chuck Hafner, who served as principal at Central Valley and University high schools, said his old friend has always been diligent in supporting community causes. When Hafner led a successful campaign to bring back the Crime Check reporting line several years ago, Stocker stepped up to help.
“Chuck’s a good guy,” Hafner said. “He really believes in this Valley.”