Dunsmuir honors former 'biker dude,' retired attorney

Lauren Steinheimer
Dave Keisler and Peter Arth hold the Dunsmuir Citizen Awards they received during a banquet at Pops Performing Arts Center Saturday evening, April 23, 2016.

Saturday night’s Dunsmuir Citizen Awards banquet recognized two former mayors for their continuing service to the community: Peter Arth, who received the Alexander Dunsmuir Award, and Citizen of the Year Dave Keisler.

In his brief introduction, planning commissioner Will Newman expressed gratitude for their efforts, as well as the community as a whole: “Anything of beauty or lasting worth has the hand of a volunteer in it,” Newman said.

Community members gathered around tables at POPS Performing Arts Center and shared a celebratory dinner catered by Liza Wood.

Former Alexander Dunsmuir Award winner Linda Price introduced Arth, a retired attorney with the California Public Utilities Commission. He first visited Dunsmuir in 1973 to file a complaint against the Shasta Retreat Water Company. Amid her description of how Arth fell in love with the tiny mountain town he now calls home, Price acknowledged the time and energy he has put into revitalizing buildings in Dunsmuir’s historic district.

District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela echoed that sentiment in his speech, saying, “Peter really has put a lot of time and effort into this community. He’s always working for you, and he’s doing it on all levels.”

Valenzuela spoke of Arth’s contributions to the City of Dunsmuir, including the Dunsmuir Brewery Works beer garden expansion set to open this summer, the renovation of the POPS cultural art space, and his donation of the land for the Dunsmuir community garden.

In his acceptance speech, after thanking his partner Debra Day, Arth elicited a round of applause when he said, “I have not seen a community with so many strong women in it.”

Arth compared Dunsmuir to the TV show, “Friends.”

“Why do people like ‘Friends’? Because it’s a world they don’t live in,” he said. “It’s a world where people talk to each other. It’s a world where you’re not sitting at a table, looking at a screen. You’re actually looking people in the eye, saying, ‘How you doing?’ And they cherish that.”

Extending a hand to the crowd before him, Arth said, “We have that, and that to me is one of the strongest forces that’s going to see us through.”

Keisler was introduced by Tim Holt, another former Alexander Dunsmuir Award winner. “It’s really inspiring to see how people come to a small town and reinvent themselves,” Holt said, pointing out how Keisler went from a “San Diego biker dude to a pillar of the community.”

Holt recounted the story of the first time he saw Keisler organizing his first soapbox derby for the Dogwood Days festival, referring to him as “Hulk Hogan on steroids.”

In addition to the soapbox derbies, Holt pointed out Keisler’s contributions during his two terms as mayor, volunteer work for Dogwood Days, Railroad Days the Mossbrae Falls trail and the Big Fish program. “He has volunteered his time to paint the library, the sports field grandstands and the bus stops. He helps put up and take down the Christmas decorations every year. I’m getting tired just reading this, but it doesn’t stop there,” he said.

Holt shared submitted stories from people Keisler offered to assist over the years, from lending a hand to elderly citizens to helping a woman fix her flat tire at the gas station.

Another former citizen award winner, former mayor Ed Steele, took the stage after Holt, saying, “The biggest thing about Big Dave is his heart. He is an ambassador for Dunsmuir, a hardworking guy who gets stuff done.”

After listing people he wanted to thank, Keisler looked out at the crowd and said, “Hell, I didn’t do it, we did it!” He then turned around to Steele and exclaimed, “I love you like my dad!”

Keisler spent most of his acceptance speech thanking key people in his life.

“To all the people who have put up with me on all committees, thank you for even allowing me to be part of the team, I’m honored to be part of you,” he said. “I’ve survived so far, I sleep good at night knowing I’ve fought hard for Dunsmuir. It’s truly an honor to be part of this community.”

Speeches concluded with a short thank you from event chairperson Barbara Cross, who said, “We really do have an extraordinary town.”