Propes leaves county better place to live

Polk County loses a lot with County Commissioner Mike Propes resigning because of heart problems.

He is one tricky politician. And we mean that in a nice way.

Unlike a lot of elected officials, Propes refuses to be defined by his party or some prescripted ideology.

You never knew exactly where to find Propes on a particular issue. He leaned toward the right on some occasions, to the left on others. It depended on the issue. One thing you knew for certain.

His decision was based on what he perceived to be the best interests of the county and all of its residents -- particularly those who's voices were seldom heard.

County commissioners deal a lot with infrastructure -- roads, land-use issues and that sort of thing. Propes made sure human services stayed near the top of the agenda.

He co-chaired the Polk County Commission on Children and Families where he lent a steady hand and a strong voice for our youngest and most vulnerable neighbors. Some GOP hard-liners suspected him of being a closet Democrat.

We say he merely walked in a procession of independently minded Polk County politicians stretching from Dallas native (and U.S. Senate legend) Mark Hatfield to current State Rep. Lane Shetterly.

We can all take pride in that tradition.

The loss of Mike Propes as a county commissioner cuts deeply.

We're not losing just another elected official. We're losing a man we could count on to vote his conscience for the past 15 years.

He leaves many empty chairs. For years, Propes took the night and the 6 a.m. breakfast meetings. Even his staunchest supporters noticed one glaring fault -- his seeming inability to say no.

He lobbied extensively for safety improvements on Highway 22. He took the cause personally, reminding decision makers from Salem to Washington, D.C., that this was more than a road project. People's lives are at stake.

When he asked for 250 letters from community members in support of funding the project, 900 letters flooded his office.

The awards he earned include the Dallas Junior First Citizen in 1989 and First Citizen in 1998. In addition, he received the Outstanding Young Man of America Award and First Citizen of the Year for Willamina, 2002 Gwen VanDenBosch Regional Leadership Award and many other honors.

Most recently, he and his family were honored with the Dallas Chamber of Commerce First Family Award for 2002.

Propes served on many community and public service organizations before and after being elected to office, including chair of the Council of Forest Trust Land Counties, Mid-Willamette Valley Senior Services and Polk County Commission on Children and Families.

Everyone in Polk County who travels the roads, drinks the water, attends school, enjoys the landscape at home or at the coast or is raising a family can be assured Mike Propes had a hand in the quality of the experience.

For Propes, service to Polk County is a simple thing. As he said when accepting the First Family award in January, "This is our home. It's not where we are, it's who we are."

He brought a passion and a humanity to a vast range of people and programs, touching lives locally, regionally and nationally.

We wish Mike Propes both a speedy recovery and speedy return to some form of public service.

Tragic deaths loss to Polk County

Wes Hedlund probably quit smiling from time to time.

However, very little evidence exists to support that hypothesis. He met just about everyone in Monmouth and Independence at one time or another.

Aside from being a local insurance agent, he served as mayor of Monmouth and president of the Monmouth-Independence Rotary Club. That's just a portion of his resume.

He did everything with a kind word and a smile. His death Oct. 3 is a loss to us all.

Another loss is Katherine Johnson of Dallas. She was well known to many people as a volunteer at the Dallas Public Library as well as a geneaologist, always happy to help people trace their family histories.

Her death constitutes another great loss to Polk County.

We will miss Wes and Katherine's smiles.


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