After 15 years, Mike Watters will step down as McLean House president

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Mike Watters has loved the McLean House and Park since he first laid eyes on it in 1991, but he says he's ready to move on from his role as president.Mike Watters has been retired for almost two years now, but you’d never know it with the hours he pulls.

Between 30 and 40 hours a week — that’s how much time Watters spends in his role as President of the McLean House and Park, overseeing the two-acre grounds and communicating with visitors and the property’s two managers.

It isn’t easy work, but Watters has loved every minute of his 15-year term as president, which will end when he officially steps down at the end of the month and is replaced by Kevin Pike.

“Fifteen years is a long time,” Watters said. “Since my wife retired and my kids are getting older and having grandkids, I need to concentrate a little more on family.”

“It’s well-deserved that he gets the rest,” former McLean House caretaker and president Roger Shepherd said. “He’s been a tremendous force for the house, but I’m happy to see him have some pleasure time.”

The McLean House has been a part of Watters’ life ever since he first moved to West Linn in 1991. He and his wife, Peggy, both worked in the recreation field and found themselves enraptured by this hidden historic home along the river.

“When you come in, you can just sense the history,” Watters said. “The woods inside are so rich, the way the house is laid out, the gardens ... at the time, they needed a lot of work, but you could see the potential in them.

“Both my wife and I could see that we could do some kind of contribution to help out.”

Over the years, both Mike and Peggy Watters served in various roles at the house. Peggy actually ascended to president first, for three years, before being replaced by Shepherd. Mike Watters followed after Shepherd stepped down.

“I’ve worked with Mike for a long time, and will truly miss him and the consistency he brought to the McLean House board,” West Linn Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said. “Mike has maintained the same level of high passion and tenacity to champion for the McLean House and its programs for a duration that has yet to be matched by any other volunteer I have worked with, and I have worked with a lot of volunteers.”

Throughout his run as president, Watters has emphasized working closely with volunteers to help transform the home and park into an even more pristine location.

“What we’re sitting in, it used to be all laurel - an invasive species,” Watters said as he sat at a picnic table on the park grounds. “(I’ll remember) working with the volunteers, but also seeing it begin to evolve into such a beautiful place.”

For many years, the McLean House — built in 1927 — has been a popular wedding location for smaller parties up to 100. It’s a happy niche that the house has continued to enjoy since Watters arrived, and also adds another dimension to the home’s history.

“People come back and say, ‘We were married here in 1955,’ or something,” Watters said. “It’s just really nice.”

He’ll miss all of that, but those 30 hour weeks have begun to add up, and Watters knows it’s time to move on.

“I have two major projects that are going on,” Watters said. “After September, we’ll take on other things. We’ll go to state parks in Utah and Arizona, and visit our daughter (in Chicago).”

Watters also plans to write and take photographs — both passions of his that have taken a backseat in the midst of his volunteer work at the McLean House.

Walking away, Watters can take pride knowing that his efforts have brought further blossom and attention to a place he loved at first sight.

“The house was almost unknown,” Watters said. “People just didn’t know anything about it, and they still come by and say ‘We had no idea.’

“We thought we could get it known a little more. That’s happened.”

By Patrick Malee
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