Matt McHugh knows the people in his neighborhood.

Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood? This familiar childhood song beats a rhythm in my mind whenever Matt’s name comes up in conversation.  If you have ever met Matt McHugh you would be hard pressed to not find him greeting you with a big warm smile and hardy hello, one palm raised up to meet yours. His positive vibe is infectious and you’ll easily fall into comfortable conversation about life and the living.

We sit at Plymouth Pub, the new sports bar down on 1st Street and fall into easy conversation. It’s Matt’s first visit and he settles for a burger with the bacon. “How can you go wrong he quarries?” with a smile. While we wait for our fare I ask Matt about his earlier years and he begins with his parents and first memories. In 2nd grade Matt moved to Scappoose with his dad and mom. His dad was a principal at Grant Watts. The family took to the little town and he grew up in the area enjoying the life in a “Leave it to Beaver” culture. It had all the fun of running around the neighbor hood, playing in an unencumbered society, free of propeller parents and far from city life where folks didn’t always lock their doors at night. Those days continued throughout his school life: family, friends, school, fun. But, like a lot of other people, Matt was anxious to see the exciting outside world he saw on television, heard about and experienced on outings with his family. He had new ideas about what was next.

Not to be outdone by anyone else Matt left as soon as he possibly could to get away. In his young mind, the place was small and restrictive. He laughs about this now, “Isn’t that what everyone wants to do when they finish high school?” As the burger arrives he says he is glad he ordered it. “Now if it is as good as it looks right?” One bite later he nods his head in approval and continues his story. After leaving he went to university and ended up with a degree in Political Science and a wonderful mate in his wife Jamie. She was raised in Portland and seemed agreeable to the next big thing which was starting a family.  When it came to child rearing they quickly realized they couldn’t be the helicopter parent type, keeping track of your kids every minute of the day and competing for much sought “quality play dates.” The city didn’t seem to fit into their vision of family as much as it did when you just wanted to get away from your parents. They found themselves yearning for a more laid back environment to grow their children and realized that another move was needed to make it a reality. It was a move back to where Matt had roots and it was doable financially.

Fast forward to today and you’ll find Matt teaching his boys to fish and play outside, hiking within the beauty of close by forest and fauna. Here the “great outdoors” starts pretty much right as soon as you leave the house he says.  “We still go to nearby attractions like OMSI and Oaks Park, but we are grounded here. This is where we really do the living,” says Matt.

I asked what he wishes Columbia County had and he smiles, “I love Indian Food and the ability to take a taxi, Dim Sum on Sundays.” His favorite food remains pizza which will always rule as his favorite, hopefully with roasted garlic.”  His idea of relaxing is fishing, Frisbee golf, and neighborhood poker games. Coincidentally these are all within a 5 minute drive.

Matt believes in community and you’ll soon see his lifelong commitment at the Chinook Sports Field. In two locations it will be touting his Cascadia Home Loans message. He is very involved with supporting youth and one campaign he is recently involved in is the “Sports Time not Screen Time”  program.  An avid community supporter you’ll see Cascadia Home Loans millennial inspired rainbow of outdoor pigments continue to be recognized on many more upcoming events and school programs.

In his business of providing financial services and support to he is planning to grow with the cities he serves. Another location is a definite possibility and he truly can supply our small towns with the resources of a big city.

Matt is way to young to retire; but he sees his life here for the upcoming years and watching both his family life grow up through his children and the community grow into everything everyone could want it to be. Lots of resources without the hassle of city life. “It’s hard to find a place that is perfect, but this area has the bones, you have to trust that everyone wants the best for their neighbor too; I see that here and it makes me want to do better every day so my kids can have the same choices I do later on.”

Chief Greenway reveals some little secrets and they go viral

We catch up with Chief Greenway and instead of asking the same tired questions we seek the good stuff that everyone wants to know.  We’re sure this will come in handy sometime in the future for anyone that needs a conversation starter with our new Chief of Police.

Home Town? Rolling Meadows Illinois

Favorite place? Disney Land

Favorite color? Blue

Favorite band? Guns and Roses

Favorite television series? Family Guy

Favorite movie? Saving Private Ryan

Favorite sport? Hockey

Favorite team? Chicago Bears

Favorite food? Banana Pudding

If you weren’t a police chief what other occupation would you have? Dentist or radio disc jockey

What human trait do you most admire in yourself? I’m approachable

If you could give anyone one piece of advice what would it be? Be kind

Do you watch game of thrones?  Yes

Who do you most identify with? John Snow

Favorite beverage? Lemonade

What car would you most like to have? Ford F250 Diesel

Which living person do you most despise? Any member of Isis

What is your most overused phrase? I’m sorry

What is the greatest love of your life? Ice hockey

Where and when are you happiest? With his daugthers

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Watching his daughters become adults

Name one thing people don’t know about you? Last one to see Tupac alive after he was shot

Favorite book? The Art of Racing in the Rain

Last place you’d ever want to go? Mexico

If you had a super power what would it be? Flying

Best way to spend a weekend? Ice hockey or spending time with daughters

Favorite flavor of ice cream? Butter Pecan

Favorite line from a movie? “Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?

Hot dog or hamburger? Hamburger

Favorite off duty clothes? Jeans and T

Secret talent? Bow and Arrow Expert

If you had one wish that couldn’t be for more wishes what would it be? My daughters grow up happy.

How do you and Matt Brown have in common? My daughter has AVM – and so does Matt. Only 1 in every 100,000 people are diagnosed.

Mitzie Ponce brings smiles 7 days a week

Mitzi Ponce Brings Smiles Seven Days a Week

You’re likely to find Mitzi Ponce on her perch behind the cashwrap at 2Cs Vendor Mall; but she hasn’t always been there. Mitzi started her life overseas and for the first six years got a taste from the other side of the pond. Her father was military and this lifestyle afforded her a different perspective on life that has benefited her cheery attitude and business style. After the family returned to the United States Mitzi moved to Austin where she was greeted most mornings by the conflicting smells of gunpowder and baking bread. Her home was located by both the school and the military facility.

Eventually, Mitzi ended up in East Carolina with her daughter where she studied a variety of subjects that ended with bachelor degrees in Computer Science, Biology, and Philosophy. Yes, you read that correctly. She also worked as an intern for the department head at the University. While working in the research department, IBM came calling and Mitzi was an easy pick for their team. At the time IBM didn’t think they were hiring enough undergrads. With a chuckle, she says she was the oldest intern at IBM in their software innovation lab.  Home life was busy with work sometimes beginning with 4 a.m. calls and training on c suite level in India followed by China data companies solutions. The afternoons were filled with the West Coast and Mexico clients and then on to Japanese colleagues. It was often a 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. gig. After almost 10 years Mitzi hung up her three letter company and its routine to make a move to be near family. Currently, her son and daughter live close by and they are the ones we might want to thank for bringing Mitzi to town.

Mitzi bought the 2Cs Vendor Mall when she had the chance and this fulfilled a lifelong passion of hers. Antiques. The 2Cs Vendor Mall welcomes all kinds of interesting items from days gone by. “I just love helping folks find things that they collect, whether it’s barbershop poles or vintage metal cars,” says Mitzi, “I get a kick out of that and it doesn’t get old for me.” While her favorite customer might be a dog named Lou Lou that runs for Mitzi’s door the minute it turns the corner of St. Helens Street where greetings and treats are received, she really feels a bond with those that come, return and come again. Many of her customers make 2Cs Vendor Mall a part of their collecting journey and they do become like friends. There is something special about the way that Mitzi and her staff serve their customers – they all have likable and engaging personas.  Free coffee might also have something to do with that. A fresh pot is always on and customers are welcome to it. After a journey to the store a coffee is usually welcomed and gives people a minute to collect themselves and visit a minute before pulling themselves together to carefully look through the over 60 different vendors’ wares within the mall. Her favorite time of the year is late summer when it is hot outside. Mitzi says the reason she likes this time of year is that, “The store is cool inside and when people come in all overheated we offer popsicles and lemonade, there is just something about that I really enjoy. It’s just an old fashioned feeling of community.”

Part of Mitzi’s success can be given to her background and acumen for business and the knowledge of operations; she is very much into expediting and evaluating store activities. The biggest change has been in increasing her store hours. “The one thing I would tell retail business owners in St. Helens is to be open, build a habit for customers that they can find you open. Once you show customers you are committed to being open for them they become loyal shoppers,” she says with a smile on her face. One reason it’s become important for her to be open 7 days a week is a result of the month-long Spirit of Halloweentown celebration. “After the first year we really started to have a huge crowd…  we could afford to stay open longer, and then we could serve all the returning shoppers. We have returning customers that came here for the second, third and fourth time every week following that original Halloween month. They want to shop when it’s not so busy and they like that the store continues to offer up new gems along the way. Halloween sales provide just about six months of income in one month, and I now have a waiting list of people that want a spot inside the mall,” she said. She adds that “St. Helens is a good place to do business and the City of St. Helens is getting easier and easier to do business with, the merchant meetings have really given a voice to us who want to be heard, the activities have gotten better and better and it’s not often a place of this size can create this number of tourism guests.”

Mitzi dreams of an elevator in her 3 story building and making more improvements for customers when they visit. On the occasional day off Mitzi finds family at the forefront of her day. She loves spending time with them and her son recently moved to the area. There are many things that engage the heart and few that engage the soul. I get a lift every time I see those kids she said. I feel very lucky that I have a complete passion for what I’m doing whether it’s in the mall or just watching those kids. They both make me smile.

2C’s Vendor Mall is located on First Street across from Columbia Theater in St. Helens, OR. They are open 7 days a week.

The Vendanta Retreat – A Spot Out of Time and Space

By Stephanie Patterson

At the end of a side road on the outskirts of Scappoose, past a myriad of gentleman farms, sets one of the most unique and serene spots in all of Columbia County – the privately owned, Vedanta Retreat. While Columbia County boosts many great hiking locations with terrific scenery, the Vedanta Retreat offers something extra along its twisting trails. It offers serenity, and an opportunity to contemplate and meditate as you feel guided. Along the densely paths of foliage you discover pilgrimage shrines for all the major religions and philosophies of the world.

Vendanta is a Sanskrit word meaning, “The conclusion of the Vedas” – the Vedas being the oldest sacred writings of India. These writings provide the foundation of Hinduism. Vedantic teachings affirm three tenets: The oneness of existence, the divinity of the soul, and a harmony of all religions. Nowhere is the last tenet so visible at the retreat than in its shrines to various faiths which are scattered throughout the property.

The Vedanta Retreat is located on a 120-acre parcel of land that has been privately owned by the Vedanta Society of Portland since 1936, but visitors and pilgrims are welcome to hike the trails and visit the shrines. There is a gravel drive that stretches through the trees beyond the main gate where you leave your car. Almost immediately you understand that this place in different. Speech becomes quieter, less frequent, as if you automatically comprehend that this is hallowed ground. During spring, the forest floor is covered by wildflowers and new vegetation – white trillium, ferns and Dutchman’s britches to name a few. The paths are well-marked and by bearing right you soon find yourself walking up a long hill. The cries of birds and the patter of rain on leaves and needles are the only sounds you hear. Suddenly, through the tops of the trees you spy a golden, onion-shaped dome. You have found the main temple, or perhaps more correctly, the temple has found you.

There are benches along the edge of the glade housing the temple – places where you can sit and take in the calmness, the sanctity of the site. There is a garden plot with a sign proclaiming it ‘Mother’s Native Garden,’ filled with plants indigenous to Oregon. From the temple, you can take a trail marked, ‘Mothers Trail’ that leads you through the forest to the Karma and the Biblical Trails. Along this way you visit the Shrine of the Holy Mother (Sri Sarada Devi) and the meditation seat of St. Francis of Assisi. Farther up a steep hill, the Christian shrine holds a picture of the Madonna and Child inscribed with the simple words, ‘Amazing Grace.’ From there you can travel a world of beliefs – Sikh, Judaism and Native American, as well as many others. The natural forest, the wildlife, the trails and shrines all serve to make the retreat feel as if it’s a place out of time and space from the modern world.

While the retreat is located on private land, the general public has always been welcome to use the trails and visits the shrines. There are only a few requests the Vendanta Society makes of its visitors. Be respectful and remember this is sanctified ground for many religions and philosophies. There is no alcohol allowed on the property. There is no hunting, or firearms permitted. It is a ‘noise-free’ zone, which means it’s a space designated for quiet contemplation and meditation. This is not a place designed, or intended for running and playing, or climbing trees. Children are welcome, but some of the constraints on them may be difficult for them to follow and it may not be the best choice in a hiking location for them. There is a trash receptacle at the front gate, but none through the trails. If you pack it in, you must pack it out. This property is pristine and the Vendanta Society asks all visitors to ensure it remains this way. It comes down to one thing – be a good guest with good manners. Please check the Vedanta Society’s website for more information at

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Hot Topics – Sand Island sets up camp

Hot Topics – Sand Island Sets Up Camp


  • There are currently 37 campsites planned with additional spaces for dwelling on the island. The island can easily accommodate this number with plenty of space for additional day use by guests.
  • Once the island “opens” there will be an onsite camp host 24 hours a day. This person will transport people to location and ensure they have any questions answered and be available 24/7. This person will call for help in emergency situations if necessary.
  • The island will be available for all typical day use by boaters. Boaters can use the docks as they always have. Gatherings for specific boat activities will proceed as normal.
  • The island will have garbage and recycling service.
  • The shuttle for transport to the island is free to anyone overnight camping or for day use guests.
  • There will be a charge for overnight camping or rental of future temporary dwellings.
  • The beach access will always be open for boaters.
  • The island will be patrolled daily and any transient dwellers will be advised of the rules on the island and given information as to services available. Any situations which could arise will be left to the police department if necessary.
  • Guests that take the free shuttle to the island for day use may not stay overnight unless they have reserved camping. Guests may return on the free shuttle based on day use rules similar to other camping areas. Campers will need to be checked in by a specific check in time.
  • Camping will be available electronically for guests who wish to reserve a location. They will be able to choose spaces and all the normal things related to the camp grounds.
  • Parking will be available via valet as well as locations downtown such as next to 2C’s Vendor Mall or at new paved parking lot planned by the Sand island managers.
  • Currently boaters can stay 5 days every 30 days at no charge at all docks. A discussion of limiting the stay to 72 hours except by permit is being discussed.
  • Sand Island is being managed by St. Helens Campgrounds LLC an affiliate of St. Helens Marina. The City of St. Helens Councilors will provide oversight. St. Helens Campground is expecting to spend the necessary moneys to provide a vastly improved outdoor location for both the community and guests.
  • Camping, dwellings, adventure experiences and community activities are all part of the plan for use of the island.
  • Out of town guests can camp for $30 per night while locals get a $10 cash back deal. In the future this will be done via gift cards for use at First & Strand Businesses.
  • Check back for further updates as they become available

Working the County Beat – A View from the Top with Sheriff, Brian Pixley

By Stephanie Patterson

There are three things you notice immediately when meeting Columbia County Sheriff, Brian Pixley, elected to his first term in November 2018. He has a warm smile, a hardy handshake and he sports a large tattoo based on Disney’s Nightmare Before Christmas characters that he wears with pride. All these things have one thing in common – they are who he is. The tattoo symbolically represents his family, all three of his children, his wife of twenty-five years, Annette, himself and even the family dog, immortalized in a colorful arm display. There’s a genuineness and a satisfaction in his voice as he gestures to his family tattoo. “We’re a Disney family,” he explains with a grin. “We’ve been to Disneyland and Disney World many times. We don’t do (a lot of) pictures, so we do this.”

In 1994 the Pixleys moved from Newport Oregon, to the Portland area. It was a return of sorts for Brian, a graduate of David Douglas High School in Southeast Portland. In 2003, the Pixley family relocated to Columbia County and since then, Sheriff Pixley has worked for the City of Scappoose Police and for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), working his way up the ranks, culminating in his successful bid to be elected as sheriff in last year’s election. He’s met the challenges facing the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office by carefully blending both optimism and pragmatism.

“We’re in a real ‘Catch-22’,” Pixley says, referencing the phrase from Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel by the same name for a paradoxical dilemma. “Businesses would like to relocate here (in Columbia County) but there’s a lack of services due to our tax base.” Without an expanding tax base, Pixley notes, it becomes difficult to introduce innovations to services and programs that would keep Columbia County competitive with other locations vying for business growth opportunities. Sheriff Pixley is a strong advocate for agencies working together to accomplish jointly beneficial goals that once had to be sidelined due to the burden of costs. He states that, “Here in Columbia County necessity has had to become the mother of invention to find a way to get things done.” One of the prime examples of interagency cooperation can be seen in the Life Lessons life skills program taught and managed through the Columbia County Jail.

In Life Lessons, inmates receive life skills training, parenting and anger management classes, as well as drug and alcohol treatment. All participants reside in a particular pod while in jail to enhance support and the feeling of community. “The program tries to give them the skills to choose rational thought over acting out,” Pixley explains. “We have our third class of inmates graduating soon.” While he’s proud of the Sheriff’s Office’s track record with their inmate graduates, Pixley recognizes that nothing assists an inmate’s success like witnessing the success stories of other inmates firsthand. “I’d like to start a mentorship program to encourage the next group,” he states.

In response to citizen’s concerns about the treatment of the incarcerated mentally ill, the Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with Columbia Community Mental Health (CCMH), opened an office inside the jail to make certain there were mental health services available to inmates as well as a resource addressing the concerns of the jail staff. While cuts hamper the ability to staff the office for a full, forty hours per week, Sheriff Pixley is working to increasing CCMH’s hours of operation inside the jail to full time. The deputies in the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office have completed training that assists them in their interactions with inmates suffering from mental health issues. Pixley sees this as the best of ‘stone soup,’ where one agency brings what they have to the mix, helping to create more long-term solutions than each agency can accomplish on their own.

While Sheriff Pixley has no immediate plans to completely overhaul existing programs and departments within the county sheriff’s jurisdiction, he does have a list of new ideas and modifications to current programs and procedures that he’d like to enact. Youth outreach is one of his prime areas of interest he explains, and he would like to begin that outreach by involving area young people in a search and rescue corps that could eventually work into a cadet program. He also has nine action items written on the white board of his office that he can miss seeing every day. It’s an impressive list which includes the formation of a Cell Extraction Team – deputies specially trained in negotiating techniques as well as physical policing skills to safely extract a combative inmate from a cell when they pose a risk to other inmates, themselves or to jail staff. The sheriff will also assign liaison deputies to work with specific citizen watch groups in their assigned patrol area in the outlying parts of the county.

Cross training is a key component in a sheriff’s office with staff and funding issues. Sheriff Pixley intends to see that all his deputies complete FBI hostage negotiation training, and is also working to develop and implement professional standards reviews for his staff. These are just highlights from his list. When asked how many of the nine items he believes he can accomplish, he gives his trademark grin and says confidently, “All of them.”



Woodland Cottage Handpicked Showcases St. Helens, Or with New York Style

In 2015 Courtney opened Woodland Cottage Handpicked and St. Helens has never looked so good. Professional photographic skills, combined with a global sense of style and a good head for marketing has created a trifecta of retail savvy in this local store. Their online presence snags the attention of FaceBook followers with fashion shots that feature local St. Helens’ backdrops. The product photos flow like a favorite movie, the scenes giving additional excitement as if you were visiting a film location. The riverfront, public art pieces, and various projects become part of the wonderful fashion line worn by local models. These photos show up on screen in a variety of ways and each time they do, viewers find themselves caught up in the totality of what is inside the frame. Add this depth, this sense of style to a social media promotion and you will see why so many shoppers follow Woodland Cottage Handpicked online. The juxtaposition of style versus layout compares favorably among companies that spend millions on professional, creative marketing campaigns.

Woodland Cottage is owned by Courtney Allison, who has been an entrepreneur her entire adult life. A quick smile and a warm hello is likely the first interaction you will have with her. In 2000 Courtney opened her first retail shop based on trips with her husband to Colorado. These trips encouraged a fascination with microbrews and collecting brewery souvenirs along with the quality creations of local artisans. When you visit Woodland Cottage you immediately sense Courtney’s commitment to impeccable Northwest Style. Beautiful handmade racks offer gorgeous “handpicked” selections. Each collection would easily fit into any world-class shopping venue across the globe. Additionally, Courtney’s shop offers items for anyone on your shopping list – women, men, and children – making this place a home run for local shoppers.

Courtney has always loved photography and decided to get serious in 2005 when she opened her professional photography business just a year before the birth of her daughter Kylie. Having a baby inspired the opening of Lizards & Ladybugs, a children’s boutique. Meanwhile, her photography studio continued to thrive. In 2012 a move from Eugene to Gales Creek reminded Courtney that she needed a break and the 44 acre home provided a much needed nudge to relax and reflect and travel. Spending quality time with family was a reset of sorts and by the time a snowstorm hit in 2014 the family was ready for a change. They listed everything they wanted in a home and found only one that met their criteria. Luckily for residents of Columbia County, their dream home is located here.

After a short time renting space in a vendor mall, Courtney secured her store on First Street and named it Woodland Cottage after their home in the woods. This location has been able to fulfill Courtney’s business goals of giving back to the community and supporting local artisans who provide her with racks and shelves for her new and unique offerings. For local shoppers, Woodland Cottage offers specific lines of new, upscale boutique clothing, jewelry and accessories that you won’t find anywhere else in-county. Quality over quantity, ease of originality is a mantra that seeps into the store description easily. With traffic a consideration and wanting to find something unique, something special in a gift Woodland Cottage rises to the top. It is an easy choice for shopping in Columbia County before braving the road to faraway places.

Woodland Cottage is also home to a new idea for St. Helens called Night Market. This exclusive event highlights various artisans who create their own brand and need more recognition to encourage product awareness. It’s another way that Courtney encourages new businesses in the area and into her store, as guests reap the rewards. Others have discovered the easy online component of Woodland Cottage by having their gifts directly shipped across the country. Don’t be surprised if you find a gift from Woodland Cottage showing up from a good friend. Just enjoy the pleasure it’s about to bestow on you and smile because it’s also supporting a local artisan. After selecting multiple treasures, you make your way the counter only to discover that Courtney has an additional surprise for you. She has a loyalty program which gives credit towards future purchases. “Come back again,” she says to you with a wave and a smile. Don’t be surprised to find yourself waving back while you wonder check to see what time Woodland Cottage opens tomorrow.

Woodland Cottage Handpicked is on fb and twitter and located on First Street St. Helens, OR



Recreation & Parks Department Need Some Green

Recreation Program Funding is Open for Discussion.

By Don Patterson

The City of St. Helens is looking for a way to finance operations of the newly formed recreation program when grants expire, which is set to happen in 2020. Unless a stable source of funding is found the new City recreation center may have to close.

The Recreation Program, which started in June of 2018, opened a new Recreation Center located at 1810 Old Portland Road, formally known as the FARA Building. The City acquired the building when it took ownership of the Boise White Paper Property back several years ago.

When the current money paying for the Recreation Program is used other funds must be found to continue the programs and keep the activities scheduled. The current money that pays for the Recreation Program was comprised of both grant and matching approved budget committee dollars.

In addition to the Recreation Program, The Parks Department is also currently reviewing fee structures and funding options. Currently, Parks maintenance and staff is paid out of the General Fund. This General Fund supports the resources for the Police, Library, Planning, and several other departments that are housed from the General Fund.

City Finance Director, Matt Brown, oversees the recreation program right now. Brown said he began taking an active part in managing the program during the Council’s review of a potential sugar beverage tax in 2018 which would have provided funding for both Parks and the Recreation Program in the future. The Council chose not to pursue the tax after public outreach.  “Now,” Brown said, “how do we finance all the projects and programs we want to do?” Brown maintains a list of possible funding sources in his office. Nothing is off the table, he says, and no idea is too crazy to consider. Those options include searching for additional grants to continue operations and potential improvements around the local parks to potentially a local option levy, bond, or separate taxing district for Parks and The Recreation Department. This would be approved by voters during a general election.

Any levy or tax-based solution is likely to encounter stiff competition, brown acknowledges. St. Helens School District plans to go to voters for additional funding to upgrade the high school facilities even after getting approval for a $50 Million Bond and Columbia County has a jail operations bond coming up too. Now add the potential tax levy for operation of CC Rider to the docket as well.

Another consideration of the City Council is to possibly approve a utility fee to cover the Recreation Budget Requirements. The afterschool program is one of the most important new offerings which invite children from kindergarten through 6th grade a place to go when parents are not at home. New, as well on the schedule, are specific days for middle school and high school students to engage in positive activities. Most funds would directly go to covering the cost of full time staff to accommodate community needs and keep the doors open during daytime and evening hours. Additional funds are also collected based on the activity directly from participants of the programs.  A plethora of other options include a wide array of choices that appeal to all ages and encourage student and adult participation.

As of the last open forum a $2 per month fee is being proposed based on conversation and surveys as one of the better options for funding. Grants are also possible and have been applied for. There are 2 more times for comment at City Council Chambers on April 17th and May 1st before a decision is made. Come and let your voice be heard.

Recreation Building


Building for Tomorrow While Reclaiming the Past

Building for Tomorrow While Reclaiming the Past

By Stephanie Patterson

Have you ever had one of those days when you plan to go in one direction, then suddenly take another fork in the road and discover the place you were really meant to be? That’s precisely what happened to the Jane Garcia Team of Keller Williams Realty when they went looking for an office location in Scappoose, Oregon. A real estate office in Scappoose made perfect sense with the town’s evolving commuter culture and the excitement generated by Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center’s rapidly expanding membership of global partners – Boeing and Haimer among the noteworthy. There’s a lot of growth happening there with the anticipation of more to come.

“We were ready to sign on a lease,” Jane Garcia admits, “but something was missing.” Jennifer Pugsley, Jane’s twenty-year life partner, as well as co-owner of the real estate team’s new digs adds with a glint in her eye, “We were looking for something more, so Angela and I jumped in the car and went looking in St. Helens.” Angela refers to Angela Kane, the third member of the Jane Garcia Team who’s in charge of practical matters and making certain every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed in the business practice. She is also tasked with keeping the team’s collective feet on the ground.

On that fateful day Jennifer and Angela found 50, Plaza Square. The vacant building, constructed in 1928, was once the home to Columbia County Abstract Company, and more recently, St. Helens Computer. A brief conversation with the building’s owner revealed his interest in selling the property outright. Jane, the team’s ‘Negotiator’ moved to secure the purchase and work out the million and one details necessary to make their dream of a new office space, a reality. Jennifer Pugsley is the team’s visionary. She handles the marketing component for the Jane Garcia Team as well as acting as the driving force behind the renovations currently being performed on 50, Plaza Square. “This isn’t a Home Depot (style of) remodel,” Janes explains as she tells the story of Jennifer’s relentlessly search through old photographs, her consultations with local historians to come up with a plan that would return the 1920s charms of the structure. While this is not the only property renovation Jennifer has overseen, it is certainly the most ambitious to date. Not only was there the usual permitting process to navigate as in any remodel, but as part of the Downtown Historic District, the existence of the building’s previous features had to be proven before those original elements could be restored.

Deconstruction of the building has revealed historical treasures hidden for more than sixty years – the brickwork of the original façade, roof tiles and a bank of window framing that revealed there was once a row of mezzanine windows, similar to the ones previously exposed across the plaza on the City Hall building. These are all in the process of being restored as near to their original state as possible. “I felt like we were unwrapping a package. Every time we took something off (the building) the feeling would change,” says Jennifer. Arguably, the biggest discovery was a skylight that had been hidden from view by a drop ceiling since the 1960s. Jennifer and Jane intend to see it rebuilt with the assistance of CWA Designworks, LLC and Custom Made Wood Windows and Architectural Designs, LLC who have taken part in many historical renovations Portland.

In the meantime, there are countless other decisions to make, components to analyze from the quarter sawn oak, interior wood trim and rolling doors for the conference room, to the installation the period-style tile for the bottom of the exterior façade. In a few weeks, a team who specializes in replicating period, reverse gold-leaf painting will arrive to assess work for the door and windows of 50, Plaza Square. That’s particularly exciting for Jennifer who’s felt a connection to the property, the ‘something more’ she was looking for from the moment she stepped inside the building. She points to a shadow image of the address projected by the sunlight streaming through the door. “This image moves across the inside as the sun moves during the day,” she says. “It’s magical. So many things have just fallen into place with this project.”

The Jane Garcia Team is also looking forward to blending new technologies along with historic charm in their new home. Keller Williams Realty plans to launch a break-through app for buyers at the end of 2019’s second quarter which will allow them to search for their particular points of interests like white kitchens, or southern exposures. It’s just one of the things Jane, a forty-one-year veteran in real estate admires about Keller Williams, a real estate company who ranked number one nationally in 2018 for sales volume and units sold. “It’s an amazing business model,” she says. “It’s different to anything I’ve been involved with.” The blog, Smart Asset tags Keller Williams as, “a real estate force to be reckoned with.” Not surprisingly, so is the Jane Garcia Team.

NOTE: You can follow the progress of the renovation of 50, Plaza Square on it own FaceBook page


George Hafeman

A Conversation with George Hafeman Jr.

St. Helens resident, George Hafeman Jr. has never been one to let grass grow under his feet for a couple of reasons: First, he came to understand the value of property early in life and second, he likes to keep busy. Getting him to stay put long enough to talk can take some coordination because even at seventy-six, an age where most of us plan to spend our days relaxing under palm trees, Hafeman sits on the board of Scappoose Economic Development while heading up the three offices of Windermere/ St. Helens Real Estate with his brother and co-owner, Mike Hafeman. George Hafeman’s response to all queries about his retirement plans is a standard, “Why would I do that?”

Hafeman has always been active and can’t see his life any other way. “Independence helped me,” he says. From early childhood, living abroad in a military family, he explored much of the world on his own, in both post WWII Austria and Japan. His spirit of independence often served him well in his career paths. As a pre-med student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, he worked at a sorority house preparing food and doing dishes to pay for his own room and board. While enrolled in pre-med studies, he met and married his wife Judith. “She would bring my lunch while I was working with the cadavers,” he recalls with a grin. “She refused to come in (the building) so I would meet her out front.” As Judith kept them together body and soul, Hafeman worked two and half nights a week at the Weyerhaeuser mill, in Springfield to pay for college and support them. Ultimately, financial considerations changed his course of study from medicine to education. It was challenging to say the least, but when he graduated with a degree in education in 1966 he graduated debt free.

After coaching and teaching both math and physical education in California, Hafeman and his wife relocated to Newberg, Oregon where he taught math, as well as coached football, basketball and track. In 1971 George began selling real estate during summer recess, and also bought an insurance agency. “Like I didn’t have enough to do,” he quips, “but I like being busy.” In 1978, they moved to Columbia County where he joined his father, George B. Hafeman, Sr. at St. Helens Real Estate, a brokerage his father started in the mid-seventies. In those days Columbia County was quieter and far more rural than it is today. Hafeman Jr. states that building four houses back then earned him recognition as the biggest builder in the county. Since those days Hafeman, along with his brother Mike have sold countless properties and expanded their father’s company, St. Helens Real Estate to three offices now operating under the Windermere banner.

When asked about growth in Columbia County Hafeman spoke enthusiastically about the future and the partnership formed between Portland Community College, Boeing and the City of Scappoose. “Portland Community College is very progressive. Scappoose is the growth area right now, but with Boeing, it (the opportunities) will ‘leapfrog.’” He looks for the spillover, or leap frog effect to benefit the other communities of Columbia County, but cautions that the opportunities presented require preparation through education and innovation. He cites Cascade Tissue, located in St. Helens as a prime example of the future in manufacturing and long removed from the old notions of assembly line production. “No industry is safe from the mechanization coming in the future,” he warns. “At Weyerhaeuser I drove a forklift, but at Cascade Tissue a robot drives the forklift now. In ten years industry will look totally different. We don’t even know what that will look like yet.”

Hafeman sees a need for modern educators to shift the direction of education for today’s students in order to prepare them for an industrial landscape where manufacturing jobs require technological expertise rather than physical stamina or manual dexterity. Embracing technology is key in Hafeman’s book – not surprising given his early adopter status in the field of real estate technology. He also believes certain conditions are necessary for creating an environment conducive to growth opportunities: First, a progressive attitude towards new ideas and systems, second, a competitive fee structure, combined with a streamlined permitting process.

Economic development isn’t the only area where George Hafeman chooses to be of service to the residents of Columbia County. Under the umbrella of the Windermere Foundation, he, his brother Mike, and their agents work to assist Columbia County’s disadvantaged children, families and seniors by providing emergency assistance through programs like their “Share the Warmth,” coat and blanket drive. This year the popular, Windermere Masquerade Ball raised more than $20,000.00 to assist approximately forty-four local charities. Hafeman acknowledges that the need for assistance is great within this county and insists on a hands-on approach to giving. “I vet the requests for assistance myself,” he states. “There’s a lot of need and all the money we raise stays right here in Columbia County.”

Hafeman credits his desire to help others to his childhood spent in post-war Japan and Austria. George Hafeman Sr., a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, served in both countries as part of the United States plan to rebuild both nations. “We lived in the American section,” Hafeman Jr. recalls, “but my Dad would frequently travel and sometimes, he’d take me with him.” These were eye-opening experiences for young George – ones that have stayed with him for life. “We would go to the Japanese schools and there would be children there deformed from the atomic bombs. In Austria, they were living behind the Iron Curtain. They had nothing.” While Hafeman remembers taking these situations in stride at the time, he looks back and knows they not only created his desire to help others, but to understand what it takes to rebuild on a grand scale. As George Hafeman looks out on Columbia County today having witnessed both its past and present, he looks towards to helping secure its future.