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Beloved county, Oak Grove advocate dies

Community honors William Wild for his humor, leadership -


William Wild, who was president of the Oak Lodge Sanitary District Board of Directors, died of cancer Feb. 8 at the age of 57.

by: FILE PHOTO - William WildWild began his service with the sanitary district as a member of the Master Plan Community Advisory Committee, helping plan its new sewage plant, which was dedicated last August to serve a population of 30,000. He led the district’s efforts to get a wide margin of voter approval in 2009 on the sale of $44 million in bonds to finance the rebuilding effort, and he toured the construction site every week until the project was finished.

Wild will also be sorely missed by many in the community for his commitment to local advocacy on regional transportation and planning forums. He served on the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee, the Metro Policy Advisory Committee, McLoughlin Area Plan committee and was active in the Oak Grove Community Council.

Although he took community-college courses in telecommunications and other subjects, Wild’s expertise in local governance and budgets was largely self-taught. He had been an account executive at Wilsonville-based Technocom Inc. for about a decade. Wild supported his son Everett, a graduate of Rex Putnam High School, to become an active citizen and the youngest voting member of the community council on record.

Joan Hamilton, community-council secretary, remembered Wild for his “great sense of humor” that always seemed to put people at ease. “William had an enormous impact on our Oak Grove area, and it’s such a loss not only for this area, but also as a positive force for Clackamas County as a whole,” Hamilton said. “He educated me and a lot of others as to what was going on because he was so articulate on local issues.”

County Commissioner Paul Savas later became a supporter of Wild’s effort through FOLC to incorporate as a city, although a county-funded poll initially determined that most residents of the Oak Grove/Jennings Lodge communities lacked enough information to form an opinion.

Wild, as the founder and president of Friends of Local Control, nevertheless wholeheartedly believed that incorporation was the right thing for the region and continued educating people about its potential benefits until his death. Besides receiving state tax dollars and other benefits reserved for cities, the region would have its own governance, with the ability to work at a closer level than the Clackamas County commissioners. Wild often talked about how the increased layer of governance provided to the region through incorporation would not limit the rights of citizens, significantly raise taxes or remove the strong community that residents of Oak Grove and Jennings Lodge hold so dear.

Ongoing legacy

Wild also encouraged Hamilton’s husband, David Gray, to run for the Oak Lodge Water District, and Gray won the election last spring. Gray and Nancy Gibson unseated two longtime OLWD commissioners and are among those on their current board who supported Wild’s effort to look into potential cost savings from merging OLWD and OLSD.

Under Wild’s leadership, OLSD commissioners Nov. 12 unanimously authorized General Manager J. Michael Read to evaluate the feasibility of a merger benefiting a common customer base with more efficient services. Read is expected to present a report at his board’s June meeting, and voters may be eventually asked whether they want to support the proposal. That effort to study the feasibility of a merger still faces opposition on the OLWD Board, and the two organizations are expected to take at least year to negotiate details before referring a proposal to the ballot.

In July 2013, Wild had announced that he had gotten a clean bill of health after chemotherapy and radiation, and thanked fellow members of the community council for their support of him and his wife, Chaunda. Members of the council applauded, and many hugged Wild, but his cancer returned later in the year.

Wild resigned from the OLSD board in January as his health failed. OLSD is seeking applications to fill his seat on the board. Applications due 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, are available at oaklodgesanitary.com/get-involved and at the OLSD office, 14611 S.E. River Road.

“The Oak Grove/Jennings Lodge community lost a great leader,” wrote the OLSD Board and staff in a joint statement. “William was a friend, leader, mentor, strategic thinker and dedicated volunteer to the local and regional community. His seemingly endless energy for doing good works and for helping others to do good was an inspiration to all of us who had the honor to work with William. (He) was a great leader and a great family man who loved this community and cared enough to share his precious time with all of us.”

One of his last official acts was to nominate Terry John Gibson to succeed him as chairman of the OLSD Board. Over the last few years he had known him, Gibson had learned to trust his insights, admire his professionalism and be thankful for his friendship.

“His vision for Oak Grove and Jennings Lodge was breathtaking to some, long overdue to many and way ahead of our time to others,” Gibson said. “William saw the big picture and handwriting on the wall; perhaps he even scrawled a few items on it himself.”

Without Wild’s dedicated involvement in the water reclamation facility (WRF) capital campaign, Gibson argued that future generations would not be enjoying this “amazing” legacy. “William set a standard for oversight of public development projects with his intimate involvement with the new WRF, and it is in part his memorial,” Gibson said. “Besides transparency of governance, we were in fierce agreement about the reclamation of the Boardman-Rinearson swamp complex into a functioning wetland that serves our ecosystem services needs for stormwater management, recreation, open space and natural habitat.”

While this project is only in its beginning stages, Gibson said Wild will be present in some way all along the path to completion of this vision. Wild may have left Clackamas County physically, but there will always be pieces of his legacy in Oak Grove and Jennings Lodge if you know where to look.

An account has been set up to commemorate his service and assist with expenses. To make a donation, visit any Key Bank, or contact Karen Lotz, Key Bank Branch Manager, 14888 SE McLoughlin Blvd, Oak Grove, OR 97267, at 503-742-4967, and refer to the William Wild Memorial Fund.