The Economic Alliance of Lewis County, formerly known as the Lewis Economic Development Council, held its 40th annual banquet Friday evening at Jester Auto Museum & Event Center. Around 200 people filled up the museum’s banquet hall for a silent auction and a dinner that accompanied an awards ceremony.
Local salmon conservationist Bob Russell, of Adna, received the Russ Mohney Recreation Resource Stewardship Award, which is presented annually by The Chronicle and the Economic Alliance, for his ongoing work with salmon conservation and habitat restoration.
The award was named after Russ Mohney, a long time outdoors writer for The Chronicle who wrote a weekly column titled The Backyard Naturalist.
“What a man. This is a man when you read his obituary they use the wrong term. They say he was a ‘jack of all trades,’” Russell said. “But I think that’s wrong because a ‘jack of all trades’ implies you may not be an expert in all that you learned, and from what you read about this guy, he was a lifetime learner and I’m honored to be thrown in that same bucket.”
Russell’s work involved opening up his own property to stream restoration efforts, which has resulted in salmon returning to the creek that runs behind his home. Originally, he moved to the area as a land developer.
“I went from a land developer to a conservationist the day I saw those salmon. But they’re not mutually exclusive and as we go forward as a community and the alliance brings businesses in we can do both things. We can honor critical areas, we can maintain salmon and we can improve it while at the same time being a generator for business,” Russell said.
Port of Chehalis Commissioner Paul Ericson received the Gail & Carolyn Shaw Industry Award for his work both at the port and the Chehalis Industrial Commission, among other boards he currently serves on, in getting projects together to promote community growth.
“Thank you. It’s quite a surprise. This is such a generous community and I’m just happy to serve in whatever way I can and hope others will do the same,” Ericson said.
CT Publishing owner and CEO Coralee Taylor received the Community Commitment Award for her work with organizations such as the Hope Alliance and Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce. CT Publishing is the parent company of The Chronicle. Coralee Taylor also owns The Silver Agency in Chehalis with her husband, Chronicle publisher Chad Taylor.
In addition to the Hope Alliance and the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce, where Taylor was recently announced as the new chair of the board, Coralee Taylor has also supported school district projects and community causes over the years.
“I just want to say thank you, and my husband is in a lot of trouble for not giving me a heads up,” Coralee Taylor quipped.
Centralia City Manager Rob Hill received the alliance’s Staff Award for his work promoting city growth.
“I’m a firm believer that if we listen, God will always put us where he wants us to be. I feel truly blessed to be here and I look out in this room and I know so many people here and have worked with so many of you, and the future is so bright for us,” Hill said. “We’ve worked together on numerous projects. People really don’t understand what a city manager does. Part of it, yeah, you have to run a city day-to-day and all that silliness, but, more than anything you’re a facilitator.”
Aside from the awards, former alliance chair Ben Kostick passed the gavel to the alliance’s new chair, Luke Moerke of Exodus Engineering.
The banquet’s keynote speech was delivered by Brandi Kruse, a former reporter for Fox 13 Seattle who writes and produces her own podcast, unDivided, which is available wherever you get podcasts.
Kruse spoke about the divide she sees in politics and how it has not only hindered policies promoting growth but actively degraded society’s ability to function.
She called out the duopoly in politics and pointed out how it’s preventing politicians in opposing parties from coming together to work for the people, as well as the growth of appeasement culture and catering to small, vocal minority groups. Kruse talked about how many of the problems politicians are failing to address right now are problems that could be solved by improving economic vitality, a goal of the alliance.
“It means showing businesses you care about more than just business. You care about their safety. You care about the safety of their employees. You care about the quality of their child’s education. You care about the ability of their workforce to afford a place to live. You care about how much they have to spend on gas to get to work. You care about everything from parks to potholes. It’s because you know that improving someone’s quality of life improves our overall economic vitality,” Kruse said. “Unfortunately, too few in government seem to understand that concept.”
To learn more about the Economic Alliance of Lewis County, visit https://lewiscountyalliance.org/about-us/.