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Former City Councilman honored for rejuvenating Masons

Bill Mitchell lives the philosophy of his fraternal organization.

“It’s to take care of your brothers, their widows and orphans, to help the community and help people,” said the former City Councilman and active real estate agent.

Mitchell was recently named Mason of the Year at La Jolla Masonic Lodge #518 in Bird Rock.

A 48-year member of the organization, Mitchell said some people have gotten the wrong idea of what being a Mason is all about.

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“Contrary to some negative thinking,” he said, “our intent is not to take over the world. We can’t even decide what kind of sandwich to get for our snacks.”

Mitchell helped his lodge out in its hour of need.

“The lodge had lost its charter in 2004 because of lack of activity,” he said, “we weren’t putting any degrees on, taking in new members, and the grand lodge took away the charter.”

So, Mitchell threw himself into efforts to revitalize the La Jolla Lodge, devoting hours of his time, lending his organizational and planning skills, even donating effects from his antique collection to enhance the lodge building and honor the organization.

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“I’m just motivated to help save the lodge,” he said.

Mitchell also started a discussion group focused on pertinent Masonic books. He is now the lodge’s junior deacon.

La Jolla Masonic Lodge Master George Geanoulis said Mitchell was picked as Mason of the Year because of his long experience in the organization and his altruism.

“He’s very public-minded,” Geanoulis said.

Geanoulis said Freemasonry, or Masonry, is the oldest fraternal organization in the world. It observes time-honored traditions that have been passed down through the generations.

“We’re not a service club,” he said. “We’re charitable, but we’re not a charity. We’re very much into philosophical learning as well as applied learning you can use every day.”

Geanoulis said Mitchell exemplifies what being a Mason is all about.

“He tries to always do the very best he can,” he said. “He has a great moral base. That is very important to us in Masonry. He looks for things that need to be done, then he’ll do them.”

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To resurrect the La Jolla lodge, Mitchell said he used an idea he came up with more than 20 years ago.

“Young people are seeking something,” he said, “and they find it through their church or synagogue or in Masonry. The Masonic Lodge had stopped teaching what our ancient mysteries are and our philosophy. I thought, ‘If you teach the young people what we stand for, you’ll have young people flocking in here like you can’t believe.’ ”

Since Mitchell became more involved, the La Jolla Lodge at 5655 La Jolla Blvd. has gotten seven new young members who are rising in the organization.

La Jolla Masonic Lodge #518 has 85 dues-paying members. Nearly half of them live outside of San Diego. There is a core group of about 15 to 18 members out of the 46 who live locally.

One doesn’t have to be a skilled tradesperson to become a Mason. The organization has speculative Masons who’ve never actually worked in the skilled trades but are upright members of their community.

“At King Solomon’s temple, they chiseled out huge granite boulders, ashlars, that were chiseled into perfect cubes to the point where they didn’t need any mortar. The temple was put together with engineering principles that were unheard of in those days.”

Mitchell’s accomplishments during his long public service career include originating San Diego County’s Neighborhood Watch Program, creating the very first neighborhood group in Bird Rock in the 1970s after the kidnap and murder of a teen-age girl.