By Ken Koerner

The Bishop City Council has honored a local man’s 27 years of devotion to seeking ways of bettering the lives of so many of Bishop’s senior citizens. During the City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 11, a presentation was made to Charles Broten in recognition of his years of service to the community as the director of the Inyo Mono Area Agency on Aging and the Inyo Mono Senior Program. Councilwoman Susan Cullen welcomed Broten to join her at the chamber’s podium to much applause. As has been the case with other notable honorees, Cullen presented Broten with a commemorative plaque bearing a tile displaying the City of Bishop’s official seal. Comments of appreciation for Broten’s decades of service, accompanied by best wishes for an enjoyable retirement, were also delivered by City of Bishop Mayor Frank Crom, Mayor Pro Tem Martin Connolly, and Councilmen Jeff Griffiths and Bruce Dishion. Referring back to his earliest recollections of Broten and his musical abilities, Dishion said, “You put down your guitar 25 years ago and began helping our seniors, Charlie, so now I guess you’ll be picking up your guitar again to take up where you left off.”

The councilman’s comment was actually very close to Broten’s intended use of some of his coming free-time. “I’ve begun working on producing a music CD that has interested me for some time,” Broten said. “I’ve got a few recordings of me playing music with my father before he passed away. He was a good accordion player in his day. And I’ve recorded music being played by my son, Nick, to mix in with Dad and me – so it’ll be a nice ‘generational music collaboration’ that I’ve always thought I’d enjoy creating.It was his interest in music that brought Broten to visit friends in the Bishop area, in order to play music together. One year after his arrival, Broten found himself moving in the direction of another of his areas of interest, one which cemented his residency in the Eastern Sierra.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Broten had held a position at the university developing a program for senior citizens living in rural areas of Minnesota. That prior experience led Broten to apply for a position with the local senior agency in Bishop and the rest, as they say, is history. Broten has spearheaded a number of significant program goals during his decades of service as the former director of IMAAA. “In April, 1980 when I was first hired on, there wasn’t even a kitchen in the Senior Centers in Bishop and Lone Pine and getting those kitchens built was an important step in providing for the many seniors that were using the facility each day,” he said. Broten also played a key role in the development of local transportation options for seniors in Mono and Inyo counties. “There were a couple of buses that offered a very limited operation but the community really needed a better system,” Broten said. “I did a little homework and discovered that there were local transportation funds that could be used to improve that situation – but we had to fight to get access to them because they had traditionally been used for road work, not the actual transporting of people.” That effort developed over the years into the expanded service offered by Dial-A-Ride and the recent expansion into the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority agency now overseeing public travel options between the Reno airport to the north and Ridgecrest to the south. “The whole goal of IMAAA is to provide services to help seniors live as independently as possible,” Broten said, “and that has guided all that we’ve done over the years and will continue to guide the efforts of the agency in the future.” Notable among those services and resources, explained Broten, are the Senior Legal Services program, the Eastern Sierra Friendship Center (an Alzheimer’s day care facility), the Ombudsman service, and the numerous meals being delivered to homebound seniors. “Getting everyone involved in providing services to seniors on the ‘same page’ is something the agency has also achieved,” said Broten. “The Linkages case management program has gone a long way toward enabling seniors to remain living as independently as possible. It’s supported professionals going into seniors’ personal homes and doing assessments of individuals and their circumstances and helped ensure that all the available resources and programs related to senior support are being brought together in the most effective way.”

While the nearly three-decade interruption of paying full attention to his love of making music might have been hard for him to accept at times, Broten’s decision to make the welfare of Inyo and Mono counties’ senior citizens “job one” certainly struck a chord with the many families whose lives have been touched and improved by his efforts over those many years. And without missing a beat, Broten is already actively at work at his new computer, mastering the software that will allow him to bring together the musical gifts of three generations of Broten men.