ELLSWORTH — Fred Ehrlenbach was immersed in his daily routine when he received a surprise: He was selected as the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce 2021 Citizen of the Year.
“I was walking up to get the mail when the phone rang,” he said. “My first reaction was, don’t you have anything better to do?”
Ehrlenbach knows about keeping busy, especially through community service both now and in past years. A Trenton selectman for 12 years and board chairman for the past 11, he also represents Trenton on the National Park Advisory Committee and serves on the Hancock County Budget Advisory Committee, the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, the board that oversees Woodlawn, and the Ellsworth Harbor Advisory Committee.
He is the kind of citizen who willingly heads up the Union River Boat ride during the Autumn Gold celebration, enlisting boat owners to volunteer to take passengers on free trips up the river.
“Regardless of the hours posted for the event, Fred never left anyone disappointed, running his boat up the river until everyone got their ride,” chamber Executive Director Gretchen Wilson shared in a press release.
Ehrlenbach grew up in Ellsworth, graduated from Ellsworth High School and went on to study civil engineering technology at the University of Maine. He worked for Ray Builders then joined Irving Oil Corp, where he oversaw construction and maintenance for the company’s U.S. plants and terminals. He returned to Ray Builders in 1996 and retired in 2011.
Raleigh Ingalls, Ehrlenbach’s grandfather, was one of three local businessmen who founded the chamber 65 years ago. Ehrlenbach was a 12-year board member and former board president who just recently stepped down. He also headed up the Ellsworth Sestercentennial Committee in 2013 and helps with the Special Olympics Winter Games in Sugarloaf.
Ehrlenbach himself is not sure how he found the time for all his community roles.
“I have no idea and that’s the truth,” he said. “It was a juggle to manage all the meetings to make sure they didn’t conflict with one another.”
He also serves as a part-time deputy with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and a reserve sergeant with the Ellsworth Police Department, roles he has held for years.
“I cannot think of a more deserving individual for this award,” said Ellsworth City Manager Glenn Moshier, who also acts as police chief. “I have worked with Fred for close to 20 years in his role as a reserve officer for the Ellsworth Police Department and have benefited greatly from his leadership, professionalism and friendship.”
For Ehrlenbach, the reward and importance of public service is found in “informing the electorate.”
“People need to be informed in order to take a position and make decisions,” he said. “Without information, you can’t act responsibly.”
Ehrlenbach comes from a long line of community-driven family members, who instilled the same spirit in him, he said. For people who want to dip their toes in and do not have a similar background, he suggested volunteering for community service boards and to become involved “in the municipal goings-on in your town.”
“Become an active participant,” he said. “If you don’t participate, you can’t complain.”
Ehrlenbach does have one complaint: having to be honored at the chamber’s 65th Annual Awards Night, which will be held in June at a date yet to be determined.
“I just like to sit back quietly and hold my head down and duck,” he said. “One of the things I said is, is there an option not to show up? And they said no.”
Ehrlenbach and his wife of more than 50 years, Elizabeth, live in Trenton. They have two grown children, Heather Dorr, who lives in Ellsworth, and Roddy Ehrlenbach, who lives in Carrabassett Valley.