Modesty and philanthropy go hand in hand for men of the Wood River Valley. So even though readers made it clear during a Mountain Express call for nominations who they thought should be recognized as the 2011 Valley Man, it wasn't quite as easy to get the men on board.
All the candidates said they were humbled and surprised by the honor—so humbled that more than one man declined, saying they simply didn't want to be put on a pedestal.
Still, the valley has spoken and thrust these men into the spotlight, and the top five nominees reluctantly agreed to be considered for the title of "Valley Man."
Here are the contenders, in alphabetical order:
The owner of Zou 75 restaurant, founder of the Share Your Heart Ball and one of the primary fundraisers for Camp Rainbow Gold admits that it's often difficult to juggle his involvement.
"There's no balance," he said with a laugh. "It takes a lot of personal time and sacrifice, but the payoff is well, well worth it."
Cronin and his wife, Kris, joined Camp Rainbow Gold 12 years ago and have since become the group's primary fundraisers. The couple has raised $5 million for the organization since 2002, much of it through the one-night gala, Share Your Heart Ball, which they created.
"I'm a cancer survivor myself, and I wanted the ability to give back," Cronin said of his involvement.
Cronin moved to the valley in 1995, and says he stays here because the community is so strong and supportive.
"It's the most generous place I've ever lived," he said.
One nominator called Evan Lawer "one heck of a guy," while others referred to him as civic-minded and representative of the outstanding young professionals in the valley. In addition to his full-time sales position at Western States Geothermal, Lawler is active in economic development organizations throughout the valley, including Sustain Blaine and the Ketchum Community Development Corp.
Lawler said his involvement is driven by a need to keep the valley's economy sustainable for the next generation.
"If young professionals are going to have a future in this community, we have to get something going," he said.
To balance his work for all three organizations with volunteering at the Ketchum Fire Department, Lawler said he relies on the flexibility of his employer and technology to make the best use of his time.
"It's always living off the smartphone and the iPad," he said.
By day, Brad Mitchell is an employee with the Sun Valley Streets Department. However, he his true passion is running, which led to his founding of Sun Valley Running, a local group that organizes and promotes valley races.
Mitchell said he's been a lifelong runner, but he began running competitively after his frist Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
"It was a lifestyle change that I needed to make happen," he said, adding that he has essentially switched from one addiction to another. Now, he's dedicated to running and coaching others to follow in his footsteps.
"I'm passionate about my running and fitness in general, but mostly it's sharing that passion with others that I get to experience," he said.
Lauded as a "medical McGuyver" by his nominators, Dr. Keith Sivertson said he operates under the advice of an old mentor: "We'll figure out the right thing to do first, and then we'll figure out how to pay for it."
Sivertson said the motto came from Dr. Robert Heyssel, the late president of Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Sivertson served as the chairman of emergency medicine under Heyssel's presidency, and said he's never forgotten his mentor's advice.
"I've carried that throughout [my career]," he said.
Sivertson has been in the valley since 2000 as part of the St. Luke's transition team, but has wanted to live here since a visit during his second year of medical school in 1978.
"I decided that this was where I wanted to practice medicine," he said. "It's just taken me a long time to get here."
Nominators say John Sofro, a broker with John Alan Partners in Ketchum, is the consummate optimist when it comes to the future of Sun Valley, and his own words back that statement.
"There's no place like Sun Valley," he said, adding, "I've always had a great deal of love for the mountains. There's no question that Sun Valley is a very unique community in terms of the quality of the people, in terms of the quality of the lifestyle."
Sofro has been actively involved in the Wood River Economic Partnership, served as a board member of the Environmental Resource Center and worked on the former Ketchum Events Planning Committee.
"I am a firm believer that we all spend a lot of time talking about things we don't like," he said. "If we spent a little bit of time trying to change the things we don't like, we'd probably find less need to spend so much time talking about them."
Voting for the 2011 Valley Man opens today, May 6. Readers can vote by visiting mtexpress.com/man2011 until polling closes at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18
Katherine Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org