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Meet your neighbor: Gayle Watts

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Watts volunteers with the Estacada Fire District and was recently recognized as the department's 'Support Member of the Year' for her efforts.

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Gayle Watts has lived most of her life in Estacada and is a volunteer at the fire department.

In 1985, Gayle Watts worked with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and the FBI to create a sketch of a man who robbed the Pacific Western Bank in Estacada.

After he had robbed the bank and was running up the hill behind Odd Fellows Hall, Watts asked him what he was doing and if he was OK. At the time, she hadn't realized he had robbed the bank, but "he had a look about him like he'd done something wrong."

While she was growing up in Estacada, Watt's father was the police chief, and both of her parents served on the City Council. Today, Watts volunteers with the Estacada Fire

District and was recently recognized as the de-

partment's "Support Member of the Year" for her efforts.

Estacada News: How would you describe yourself to someone who hadn't met you?

Gayle Watts: I really just love people. Every person on this earth is a novel, and I want to know who they are. I'm not afraid to talk to anybody.

EN: What was growing up in Estacada like?

GW: It was a lot of fun. Friends and the community all became like an extended family, and it's stayed like that to this day. People here are like family, because they're people you've known your whole life.

EN: What are some of your favorite memories from your early days in Estacada?

GW: The city functions, like the water festival and the street dances. They were great big community gatherings.

EN: What's your favorite thing about the city?

GW: The close-knit community, the community involvement and all of the growth and improvements I've seen over the years. It's gotten bigger and nicer. I love the new Broadway Street.

EN: What's your family like?

GW: I raised two boys. One still lives in Estacada, and one lived in New Mexico. I have sisters in Vancouver and Portland.

EN: What's your favorite thing about being involved with the fire district?

GW: I feel so honored to be in a position to volunteer in the community that raised me. The community gave me so much growing up. I love the sense of community at the fire department.

EN: What were your thoughts when you won the "Support Member of the Year" award?

GW: It blew me away. I was very honored.

EN: Where did you work before the fire department?

GW: From 1998-2011, I worked at a nonprofit that organized car seat checkup events. We set up monthly events in the Portland Metro Area and gave grants for car seats to low income families. I still volunteer with the group, and I check car seats by appointment at the fire department.

EN: What other groups are you involved with?

GW: I'm part of the Metro Injury Prevention Professionals task force and the Safe Kids Portland Metro coalition. My dad's work as a policeman inspired me to work with safety.

EN: Tell me about the day you saw the bank robber.

GW: I saw a young man running up the hill behind Odd Fellows Hall, and when he reached the top of the hill, he ran into some bushes. He had just put something in his coat. I approached him and asked if he was OK, and he said, "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," but I knew something was going on. I drove to the bank, saw the police cars and told them what I'd seen.

EN: What were your thoughts after you told the police about what you saw?

GW: I wish I would have told him to give me what he had. I'm not afraid of chasing people down. Especially back then, guns were less prevalent.