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April 21, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Town of Portola Valley toasts two volunteers Town of Portola Valley toasts two volunteers (April 21, 2004)

By Marion Softky
Almanac Staff Writer

What is the difference between Palo Alto and Portola Valley?

"About 900 employees and 100 volunteers," said former mayor and councilman Kirke Comstock. "In Portola Valley, volunteers do the things you pay consultants and full-time staff to do."

Mr. Comstock and former mayor and councilman Gary Nielsen were honored last year at the town's annual event thanking the volunteers who make Portola Valley work.

Mr. Comstock moved to Portola Valley after a long career serving Palo Alto, where he was councilman and several times mayor over 14 years. He was appointed to the Town Council in 1998 and served six years until stepping down in December.

At the December event, Councilman Ted Driscoll introduced Mr. Nielsen as an exemplary volunteer who worked on town committees both before and after he served on the council from 1991 to 1999. "He's given many hours to the town. He's a go-to kind of guy," he said.

Mr. Nielsen started on the Architectural and Site Control Commission in 1983, then moved to the Planning Commission in 1988. From there he joined the council, serving two years as mayor. He now serves on the Finance Committee and the Open Space Committee.

Portola Valley has always prided itself on how much of its business is carried out by volunteers -- who number more than 100 and staff 14 committees, as well as the council, Planning Commission and architectural commission. Mr. Nielsen noted how volunteers help with virtually every aspect of town life, from roads and geology to history, events, culture and recreation.

"Volunteerism contributes to bonding the community, creating friendships, and providing ways to discuss town issues," Mr. Nielsen said. "All volunteers should be patting themselves on the back for jobs well done."

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