The Malheur Enterprise asked leaders around Malheur County about their picks for top news story of the year, the biggest news for their own organizations, and what goals they have for the year ahead.
Here are their responses:
Matt Stringer, executive director, Four Rivers Cultural Center:
Top story: The 1 percent sales tax – this seems to be a major issue with differing viewpoints on what to spend the money on and questions if the money is even needed. The benefits and burden must be clearly stated for all to understand.
Top organization story: We have done successful work in donor relations and generating support, both financial and emotional from our community. More and more people feel a sense of ownership or an emotional attachment to Four Rivers Cultural Centre. Over time this should make the staff feel more secure about our financial stability.
Goals: Plan events further out and come up with three or four really grand events to execute over the course of the next three years. Increase programming. Increase community learning – flower arranging, cooking, Zumba, dance classes for differently abled children and adults.
John Briedenbach, president, Ontario Chamber of Commerce:
Top story: The snow damage from the recent winter and the effect it had on the local businesses.
Top organization story: The solar eclipse brought to us the largest jump in tourism of 2017.
Goals: To see more growth in the retail sector, commercial sector, and housing. We would also like to see the growth of agri-tourism and heritage tourism such as the anniversary of the Oregon Trail.
Jim Maret, city manager, Nyssa:
Top story: I believe the top news story is Nyssa receiving the Treasure Valley transload facility and what our largest accomplishment for 2018 will be is to complete our water treatment facility.
Goals: With the Treasure Valley transload facility my job has and will be quite busy with overseeing the water project and helping with the transload facility, not to mention my everyday duties. We have a good staff at the city and a great city council. All these things are good for Nyssa and that is our main goal — to make Nyssa better for all.
Ken Hart, president, Saint Alphonsus Medical Center –Ontario:
Top story: Anthony Montwheeler was a significant story for the hospital due to the impact on two of our colleagues and their family and our staff that cared for all those involved.
Top organization story: Beginning $11 million construction project on our new 23 patient medical surgical room and 6 critical care rooms.
Goals: Complete our construction project under budget and on time and continue to recruit physicians and other medical staff to support our community
Tom Hathaway, CEO, Pioneer Place:
Top story: The winter snowstorms and accumulation of snow that caused so much damage.
Top organization story: With the closure of Ontario’s Presbyterian Community Care Center, Pioneer Place Nursing and Rehabilitation in Vale is now the only nursing home in Malheur County.
Goals: Strive to provide quality care to our patients and residents, and continue to offer an excellent work environment to our employees.
Mark Redmond, superintendent, Malheur Education Service District:
Top story: Not only did the snow cause both physical and financial issues in the county, I really believe it affected people mentally and emotionally, due to how relentless and persistent it was. People were literally done with it.
Top organization story: The scale up of Treasure Valley Tech and the effect of the Frontier Oregon STEM on the amount of coding and robotics that are occurring in the county. There are some amazing people behind those two initiatives that are creating new opportunities for local students.
Goals: Trying to increase the number of mental and behavioral health specialists accessible to Malheur County schools. This is an area of tremendous need right now.
Gail Trotter, Malheur County clerk:
Top story: The snow. We had way too much, for way too long and all the damage it caused.
Top organization story: The retirement of Debbie DeLong after 45 years with Malheur County (32 years as Malheur County clerk).
Goals: To continue to move forward in a positive way providing good customer service to our citizens.
Stuart Reitz, Malheur County extension agent:
Top story: The Snow-popcalypse – or was it Snowmaggedon? The winter weather created huge problems for the ag community. On the flip side, it garnered a lot of attention for Malheur County from the state.
Top organization story: We were saddened by the departure of Bill Buhrig from our office staff. However, we still have a strong, award-winning staff in place. For example, our livestock/natural resource agent Sergio Arispe recently was recognized as one of OSU Extension’s outstanding newer faculty members.
Goals: Hiring a replacement in Bill Buhrig’s position. This position is funded through Malheur County’s Tax Service District so we are not at the mercy of being a top priority for refilling the position. We have a search committee in place and have started to screen applicants for interviews in the coming weeks.
Alisha McBride, interim superintendent, Vale School District:
Top story: I believe that the top news story in Malheur County in 2017 was the record amount of snow that we received. The tremendous snow accumulation caused significant devastation for individuals, public entities, and private industries. Due to the unprecedented snowfall, Malheur County residents were truly not prepared to adequately endure such a difficult winter.
Top organization story: Vale School District’s top news in 2017 has been the planning process for the construction of the new middle school.
Goals: My personal goals for the Vale School District are to provide consistency, model transparency, and demonstrate progress for students, staff, families, and stakeholders.