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Centerville's mayor hopefuls cite community, church values

Government and church assignments have taken Frank W. Hirschi around the world over the past five decades. But he says there's no place like Centerville to raise a family.

And, Hirschi said, he is running for mayor to help keep the city's unique characteristics. He has already served a term on the City Council in the late 1970s, his last year in office interrupted by a call to be a mission president for the LDS Church.Hirschi was born and grew up in Montpelier, Idaho, in the Bear Lake area. He graduated from Montpelier High School and earned a degree in agriculture, with emphasis on veterinary studies, at Utah State University.

His first overseas adventures were courtesy of the U.S. Navy in 1944-46, including an assignment in post-war Japan where he saw firsthand the devastating effects of the atomic strike on Hiroshima that helped end the war.

An assignment on a minesweeper took him into the tumult of postwar China and eastern Russian ports.

He returned after the war and married a girl from the rival high school in Paris, Idaho.

"She was a very attractive young lady," Hirschi recalls of meeting his future wife at a dance in Bear Lake. "She was the cutest girl on the dance floor. I didn't think I had a chance.

"I thought she'd be married by the time I came back from the Navy. We wrote back and forth, but she had her freedom, there was no commitment. But she kind of waited for me, I think."

He and Carol married while both were attending USU. They have six children, three boys and three girls, who gave them 30 grandchildren: 15 granddaughters and 15 grandsons. "We've kept a balance," Hirschi joked, although both his great-grandchildren are boys.

Hirschi taught at Montpelier High School after the war, mainly agricultural education. He was active in the community, starting an FFA program at the school.

Hirschi served three two-year terms in the Idaho Legislature, representing the counties around Bear Lake, in the 1960s. He returned to USU to earn a doctorate in educational administration. He then worked in Southern California for a few years and finally settled in Centerville in 1973.

He was called to a special assignment for two years by the LDS Church to set up and oversee youth and education programs in Russia in 1993.

He and his wife first lived in Germany, flying in and out of Russia and Hungary to oversee the fledgling programs. They worked out of Moscow their second year.

"It was very interesting work. The church there was brand new. We were working with people who'd only been (members of the church) for a year or so. Imagine being 19, a church member for six months, and being called on to teach.

"But they are very intelligent people. There's a great emphasis on education and reading, so they handled it well.

"We had some great successes," Hirschi recalls, expanding the number of branches from four when they arrived to 49, with 1,100 people in the study program when they left.

His hobbies reflect his youth around Bear Lake: skiing, skating, fishing and, more recently, tennis.

Hirschi taught his wife to play tennis, rewriting the rules and even inventing some new ones to allow them to play against each other competitively in a singles match.

"It's good exercise," he said of the game he crafted. "Especially for the man. And that's what it was meant to be. But she's good now. She's to the point that if I'm not at the top of my game, she'll beat me."