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Stella Welsh never stops giving to her community

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OREM — Stella Welsh smiles when she goes about her daily life in Orem.

She's thrilled to see people enjoying city parks — the Mount Timpanogos Park in the canyon, the historic Nielsen Park, the busy skate part on 1200 West — parks she helped bring into being by voting for land acquisitions and protective zoning.

She celebrates the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival's national reputation. She attended the first in the founder's back yard and has never missed one since.

She's proud of helping bring Timpanogos Regional Hospital to the area.

In fact, there's a lot of Orem in which Welsh feels an almost parental pride.

As mayor of Orem for six years, she helped Habitat for Humanity obtain the land for the first house in Utah County. Today she's on the building committee after serving as the chairman of Habitat for Humanity of Utah County for five years.

She's actively supported the effort to add to Orem's impressive roster of community parks.

She also fought for women, said a city manager who served during her mayorship.

Welsh was elected to the City Council for eight years. She then defeated interim mayor Joyce Johnson in 1991 for the mayor's job. She served out Johnson's term and then won re-election. She served until 1997.

"She was the first woman City Council member. She had to overcome some issues," said former Orem City Manager Daryl Berlin.

"She's a good lady," said Berlin. "She wasn't afraid. She wasn't political. She didn't worry about Republican or Democrat interests. It was what's best for the community. She's a person who has taken her time and used it to better her community.

"I thought she was very fair, very open and willing to look at the big picture," he said.

Welsh plays down her role somewhat, but she's glad she could help.

"I enjoyed it (my time on the council and as mayor). It was good sport," she said. "I would run again if I was younger."

She liked helping people and working through the various issues, several of which were very divisive, including the expansion of the 1200 South shopping district, the rebuilding of the Senior Citizen Center and expensive road bonding. The only time she didn't like her job was when a decision impacted someone negatively.

"Sometimes it was a battle, but you have to do what's best for the community," she said.

Generally, she could come out of a controversy without permanent scars because she has a knack with people and a big heart.

"I just didn't feel that it served any purpose to get upset at things. Most people just want you to listen," she said.

Today, Welsh is 76 and still busy. She has eight grown and successful children, 30 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and obligations to a number of community entities, including the Timpanogos Regional Hospital board.

She's giving up her seat on the Kids on the Move board but accepting an assignment to the Community Action board in its place.

She may no longer be chairman of the Habitat for Humanity board, but she's actively involved in the organization's role in providing decent housing for deserving families.

Under her guidance, the local Habitat chapter has built 21 homes and is starting the 22nd.

"I believe in the principles of Habitat for Humanity," she said, "It's such a good organization. It's not a handout but a hand up."

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com