John Blaettler, a longtime Gilroy accountant whose public allegations of “systematic embezzlement” were a precursor to the Nov. 9 resignation of Francisco Dominguez from the Gilroy Unified School District board of trustees, has been named “Man of the Year.”
The title is one of seven comprising the “Spice of Life” awards, which are doled annually by the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce.
The organization nominates and votes for the individuals, businesses and educators who go above and beyond; demonstrating a high level of involvement and commitment to the communities they not only serve, but dually call home.
The Chamber describes Blaettler, 60, as “well known for his financial expertise as a local accountant and also for his steadfast commitment and contributions to our community;” a past Gilroy Garlic Festival president, Gilroy native and trusted financial guru of 32 years who serves in an advisory capacity to the Gilroy Garlic Festival and Gilroy Foundation board of directors.
“With John, you will see leadership. He personifies the utmost in integrity, ethical standards and the true definition of unselfish service to his community,” the Chamber wrote in a press statement. “He is committed as a citizen and business owner to Gilroy’s welfare and betterment. We are proud to recognize John Blaettler as the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce 2011 Man of the Year.”
Blaettler, who was not in his office when Chamber President Susan Valenta called to break the cheerful news, said he learned of the honor via message on his answering machine.
“Oh yeah,” he said, when asked if was surprised. “It was out of the blue.”
As a primary source in a series of Dispatch stories chronicling the Dominguez incident, Blaettler chuckled “I was just hoping to get my name out of the paper.”
He’ll have to wait a little bit longer for that to happen – at least until the Spice of Life Awards Ceremony takes place Feb. 11, 2012 at the San Juan Oaks Golf Club in Hollister.
Blaettler was born in Gilroy in 1951, “when the population was probably about 4,000 to 5,000,” he said.
His father was a dairy farmer in Gilroy on Day Road.
After graduating from Bellarmine College Preparatory High School in San Jose, Blaettler received his undergraduate degree in accounting at the University of California, Los Angeles, followed by his Master’s in Business Administration from Santa Clara University.
He began working as a public accountant in 1979 in Gilroy, and has been working independently since 2000.
Blaettler is married to Lee Blaettler, with whom he has two daughters – Genevieve, 26; who lives in Portland, Ore.; and Morgan, a first-grader attending St. Mary School on First Street in Gilroy.
Blaettler also had a son, Sean, who died at age 27.
The Chamber describes Blaettler as an avid volunteer who has lent his expertise to several organizations including the Gilroy Arts Alliance, South County Symphony and the Gilroy Historical Society, where he helped to “sharpen and maintain sound accounting practices, develop procedures to reduce costs and increase revenues, and create a five-year budget plan. All of these nonprofit organizations benefit the community of Gilroy.”
When he isn’t crunching numbers or volunteering, Blaettler enjoys camping, playing racquetball, traveling and spending time with his family.
When asked what he loves about his hometown, the former 1984 Gilroy Garlic Festival President (who participated in every festival since it began in 1979) said he is “proud of the sense of community in Gilroy, and its commitment to supporting local nonprofits.”
The Chamber has been hosting its Annual Dinner and Citizen and Business awards ceremony for over 45 years, but changed the name to the “Spice of Life” awards a few years ago. The event is private and regularly draws around 300 people, according to Valenta.
The other six award recipients include longtime Gilroy librarian Lani Yoshimura, David Matuszak, Director of the Santa Clara County Regional Occupational Program, Gilroy accountant Mary Humphrey, Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, Gilroy Veterinary Hospital and South County Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge, which is owned by Michael Greenwood.
All recipients will receive in-depth writeups as the Feb. 11, 2012 award ceremony date approaches.
Lani Yoshimura began her library career in 1975 in Gilroy, and was later appointed in 1983 as the city’s community librarian, where she has worked to this date.
Throughout her career, Yoshimura has been responsible for initiating numerous children and adult reading programs, including ESL programs the Chamber says have “made a dent in the illiteracy problem in our community.”
Another one of these programs is the “Silicon Valley Read” program in Gilroy, which introduces a book or literary work to the community. It then becomes the center of discussion, writing contests and other activities.
Yoshimura is a dedicated fixture in the public school system as well; ensuring the library cooperates with local educational institutions to collaborate on projects such as a student art show and the publishing of a poetry book.
She was also instrumental in campaigning in several library elections, including one for a parcel tax and another for a bond measure to help fund the new library currently under construction Hanna Street.
Yoshimura has contributed to, and belongs, to an impressive roster of organizations, including the South County Collaborative, South County Speak Out and the Silicon Valley Arts Council, to name a small handful.
The Chamber states Yoshimura spent “a great deal of her free time working on the campaigns, attending the campaign committee meetings, and helping get the vote out in support of the measures. Her tireless aid went a long way in ensuring that those needed library measures passed.”
Chamber of Commerce 2011 “Spice of Life” award recipients
2011 Woman of the Year: Lani Yoshimura, librarian
2011 Man of the Year: John Blaettler, accountant
2011 Firman B. Voorhies Volunteer of the Year: Mary Humphrey, accountant
2011 Educator of the Year: David Matuszak, Ed.D., Director of the Santa Clara County Regional Occupational Program
2011 Large Business of the Year: South County Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge
2011 Small Business of the Year: Gilroy Veterinary Hospital
2011 Nonprofit of the Year: Gilroy Gardens
*All recipients will receive in-depth writeups as the Feb. 11, 2012 award ceremony date approaches.