Chinook had its City Council meeting Thursday night, as it does on the first Thursday of every month, but something was missing: 20-year council veteran Freda Bryson, who was replaced by freshman councilman Keith Hanson.
Bryson joined the Chinook City Council in 1991, 30 years after moving to Chinook with her husband who worked for the railroad. They moved from Warland, which is now at the bottom of Lake Koocanusa, after the construction of the Libby Dam in 1975.
“It was kind of different, ” Bryson said. “People were kind of more stand-offish than they are now.
“Now of course people don’t treat people that way anymore, thank goodness. ”
She won over the town, working in a number of organizations to improve her new community.
“I worked in all kinds of different programs to help this community be a better community in anyway I could help, ” Bryson said.
One of her proudest moments was working with the Chinook school superintendent to bring a GED program to Chinook, because she “felt so inadequate for not having that diploma.
“Oh my gosh, I was so tickled to be able to go to school, ” Bryson said. “I had seven kids, so it was hard to study, but I did and I got my GED and I was so proud.
“There were 35 people who joined up to have their high school diploma and almost all of them graduated, ” Bryson said. “We were so proud of each and every one of them. ”
From her past 20 years on the Chinook council, Bryson said she is most proud of her work in upgrading the Chinook water plant, building the weir and chip-sealing the roads.
“It was a while ago, but I keep thinking it was just yesterday, ” Bryson said. “It probably needs to be done again. ”
Aside from physical accomplishments, Bryson said she is also extremely proud of the relationship she built with the community.
“My rapport with the community has been excellent; I couldn’t ask for better, ” Bryson said. “All the neighbors around and the friends I’ve made across the Hi-Line and across the state. ”
But she felt it was time to step aside and allow younger people to get involved.
“I’m going to be 80 years old, ” Bryson said. “After being on there for 20 years, we need new and younger people to take over this job. They need to realize the importance of running the city, and they need that responsibility. It’s time for them to step up. ”
And while the younger people move in, Bryson also hopes to spend some time with her family all over the country: brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
But before she begins her travels, she wants everyone to know how much she appreciates them.
“I just want to thank everyone for all of their support and all the wonderful people I have met through the years, ” Bryson said. “I just thank God for each of them. ”
They returned the favor during an open house last month, when her co-workers and friends gathered in City Hall to thank her for her service and present her with a plaque.
At Thursday night’s council meeting, colleagues from council members, to city employees and the Chamber of Commerce all spoke of the loss to the city her departure represents.
“We’re going to miss her lots, ” council member Heath Richman said. “It’s not quite the same without her here. ”
Members of the fire department told Chinook Chamber of Commerce secretary Heather DePriest about her recently helping them distribute candy canes for the holidays.
“It’s been great to have her as a part of the community, ” DePriest said. “She had big heart in everything she did. ”
City Clerk Lorraine Mulonet, who worked with Bryson throughout her time on the council, said Bryson’s greatest trait was her “genuine concern for the community as a whole. ”
“She was extremely concerned about Chinook. ”