It's an attitude that Friday earned him the 2002 Branding Iron Award, an annual honor bestowed by the Brawley chamber on an outstanding resident .
"I have a lot of pride in my community and I want to leave my community better than I found it," said Russell at the Stockmen's Club in Brawley, where the Branding Iron was given to him as part of the chamber's annual dinner celebration.
Said Russell: "We are all trying to build a better community. That's what all these people in this room are doing."
He added, "I'm just one of the many volunteers."
For those who know and have worked with Russell, he is not just another volunteer.
"It's great to work with people like him," said Greg Smith, of Smith-Kandal Insurance & Real Estate Agency in Brawley. "He's been doing this for 50 years."
Russell was nominated for the honor by his family, including his six children — five of whom were present Friday — and his grandchildren.
Daughter Sandy Cole said as a child she didn't know how involved her father was in the Imperial Valley.
"We were floored with how much he has accomplished in his life," she said. "He has given over 44 years of his life to serving the community of Brawley. He is a proud citizen of Brawley."
She added her father doesn't just deserve the honor for what he has done but for what he is doing and will continue to do to make a difference in the community.
Just focusing on some of his current activities, Russell is:
· vice president of the Pioneers Memorial Hospital Foundation;
· a Paul Harris Fellow with Rotary International;
· district finance director for the Boy Scouts of America and a board member of the San Diego Imperial Desert Pacific Council;
· a master mason of the Masonic Lodge No. 402;
· president of the Stockmen's Club;
· a member of the Al Bahr Shrine;
· a board member of the BEDC and a member of the Brawley chamber economic development committee.
That list does not include the financial support he had given to youth sports, the United Way, the Salton Sea International Bird Festival, the American Red Cross and other organizations and activities.
Russell was born in Westmorland and raised in Brawley. He graduated from Brawley Union High School, and, as his family proudly pointed out, was part of the 1955 CIF championship football team at Brawley High.
Russell left the Valley to attend college, first at Cal Poly Pomona and then the University of Arizona but said he couldn't imagine living anywhere but the Imperial Valley, and Brawley specifically.
"This is where it's at as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I'm so interested in Brawley and its growth."
He foresees a positive future for the city, particularly with the opening of Brawley Beef LLC and other developments in the works.
"Brawley is just beginning," he said. "A lot of irons are in the fire. It's a very exciting time for Brawley. We've never experienced such an exciting time."
Russell said he wants to continue to be a part of the effort to bring improvement to the city and the Imperial Valley.
"I've always been in a position of leadership," he said. "People become presidents because they care. I care about people. I've always been this way. I've always cared."
When asked what he is most proud of, Russell was quick to respond — his family.
"They are my treasure," he said.
>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.