Shoreview Citizen of the Year awarded

Shoreview’s Mayor Sandy Martin, left, poses with Julie B. Williams at the 2013 Volunteer Appreciation event where Williams was given the Citizen of the Year award. (submitted photo)

The city of Shoreview honored Julie B. Williams with this year’s Citizen of the Year award at its annual Volunteer Appreciation event last month at the Shoreview Community Center.

The Shoreview City Council in 2007 began giving out the award to honor a resident who gives back to the community through volunteer work and inspires others to do the same.

Williams has been recognized, in part, for her countless hours of service to both the Shoreview Human Rights Commission and the Shoreview Northern Lights Variety Band. She has chaired and co-chaired the SHRC over the years and has served as the SNLVB emcee for 10 years.

“Beyond belief it was unexpected,” she says of winning the award. “It feels very nice. You don’t want to feel ungrateful, but you almost want to say: ‘You didn’t need to do this,’ because you don’t do it to be recognized.”

SHRC co-chair Nancy Hite says Williams has been a very devoted member of both the SHRC and SNLVB since she started nearly 20 years ago. Williams, she said, continues to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to both organizations year after year.

“You see some people get stale after a while,” Hite says. “She’s always ready to participate and come up with new ideas on how to benefit Shoreview ... Julie always has a lot to contribute and is not afraid to show courageous opinions in a respectful way.”

As a SHRC member, Williams has had a key role in implementing programs that focus on educating people on human rights issues in Shoreview. She has been active in the fourth grade poster contest, “A Community of Many colors,” the eighth grade Human Rights Essay contest, and has participated in numerous cultural diversity events. She has been actively working towards ensuring that Shoreview is an inclusive community, along with her fellow SHRC commissioners and has spoken publicly on issues such as bullying, elder abuse and religious tolerance. She also penned an award winning book “Children Who Care: Educating Your Child About Human Rights,” which is distributed to students in schools locally and nationally.

“Julie works tirelessly to better the community and she does it in her own quiet way,” Shoreview’s Mayor Sandy Martin says. “She’s a really big influence.”

Williams recalls when she joined the SNLVB more than 18 years ago. She was at a Human Rights Committee meeting and heard some music being played down the hall. She went to investigate and upon meeting a couple of the members suggested that the band needed some clarinet payers and a lot of practice.

A former clarinet player, who had not played in 27 years, Williams saw the opportunity to relearn her instrument and joined the band.

“When I first joined the band, they were kind of this rag-tag group of 15 people, but over time this thing evolved into one of the best bands in the metro, which has been really exciting to be a part of” she says fondly.

Williams has served on the band’s board of directors for over 13 years, and served as its vice president for nine years, among other roles. She coupled her love of music with her passion for healing -- she has worked in community health her entire career as a licensed clinical social worker and mental health clinic director -- and founded the SNLVB Music Mentoring Program.

The program pairs band volunteers with children who are being treated for mental illness, or whose parents are being treated and provides them with music lessons.

“I was excited to nominate her, with all the wonderful things she does,” SNLVB President Alex Kahler says. She’s volunteered her time very unselfishly. She’s really amazing.”

Williams credits her rural upbringing for her strong work ethic. She has lived in Shoreview for 32 years now, but grew up on a farm just outside of Fort Dodge, Iowa, where she says volunteering was just a way of life.

“You volunteer your time or nothing gets done,” she says.

It’s that farm mentality that has stayed with her all of these years and she says that background has served her well in an urban setting. She will continue her hard work with the SNLVB and SHRC and has no plans of slowing down.

“If you feel like you’re making a difference, that’s enough to keep you motivated and continue,” she says.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7824.

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