A Dream Comes True in Vernonia

Paul Evans

I challenge us all to remember Vernonia: to remember what can be done when people put community ahead of party - when the many pulled together in the same direction for the benefit of all.

Every now and then something goes right - very, very right.

Today Vernonia celebrated the opening of their new K-12 education complex. It is a monument to the power of determination and will; a symbol of form as well as function.

Something like this could not likely be done as quickly and well as it was in this tiny town in the Coast Range. Necessity is a great motivator.

During the 2007 "storms" (read: hurricane), Vernonia was hobbled. Floods followed the winds, and the town was once again struggling to pick up the pieces after nature unleashed her fury.

It was a challenging time that transformed the lives of thousands of Oregonians. A lot of people lost nearly everything - but in the end the folks that survived gained an appreciation for community that few can understand.

And yet it was a time of opportunity: a moment when people came from across the state and demonstrated what Lincoln called, "the better angels of our nature."

In the shadow of disaster, Vernonia stood together, set new goals, and set about making a dream - today's reality.

Governor Ted Kulongoski, Senator Ron Wyden, State Senator Betsy Johnson, Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde, and the entire "Vernonia Family" led the charge for what can only be described as a state-of-the-art learning center that will serve generations to come.

People worked across the partisan divide to do what was right - what was never easy - what was necessary for this community to thrive in the future.

It is an example for all of us.

In the rough-and-tumble world of modern politics these kinds of stories never make the front page - too often, they don't even make the last page.

However, while we ponder the seeming futility of national policy and politics, I challenge us all to remember Vernonia: to remember what can be done when people put community ahead of party - when the many pulled together in the same direction for the benefit of all.

Vernonia is a success story that everyone should take the time to become informed about.

Thank you Vernonia, for restoring hope in the possibilities of collaboration, coordination, and dreaming big!

Comments

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    Vernonia is one of those communities that has shown time and again that they're resilient. Thanks for this great post.

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    Wonderful editorial. I remember moving to Vernonianin 1963 when rumor had it that the community was nothing more than a ghost town since the Oregon-American mill had closed and then dramatically burned to the ground (for the movie "Ring of Fire"). My family lived in Vernonia for 10 years, and it was anything but a ghost town. So full of life and promise, Vernonia is an excellent example of "community." That others outside of the town were able to see that and pitch in to help save Vernonia once again is a testament to the many people who see the value of community as a shared imperative.

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    Thank you for the great article, Paul. I was honored to be a part of this effort as the Oregon Solutions project manager from 2009-2011, and witnessed the coming together of urban-rural, public-private, loggers-environmentals, and Republican-Democrats. It was and continues to be a great example for the rest of Oregon. Funds are still needed to complete the campaign, so visit www.vernoniaschools.org

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