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To the voters of Coulee Dam

Letter to the Editor


Recently, I had the privilege of spending time with three of the candidates running for the Coulee Dam Town Council. Although I spoke with each individually, I was very surprised to hear how similar their actions and views were. I told them I would be writing to The Star to share what I had heard, and if any mistakes have been made, the responsibility is mine.

Ben Alling was the first to talk with me, followed by Bonnie Femling, with Keith St. Jeor last. Here is a summary of our discussions:

All three are long-time residents of Coulee Dam. Ben was born in the area in 1948, Keith in 1974. Bonnie arrived in 1941 and has spent her last 47 years in the Coulee area. The reason they all gave for their many years in the area was, “Because it’s a great place to live!” All three have spent years working for the USBR, although holding other jobs earlier.

In 1968, after graduating from high school, Ben was caught up in the Vietnam War. The day after he was asked how he wanted to serve, he was on his way to basic training, then welding school. He was top of his class. But that didn’t help him on his first night of active duty. He was stabbed in the chest by a civilian Vietnamese and spent the next 17 days in the hospital. Those two experiences - welding and wounding - probably explain two of his life-long interests, his work life and his continuing interest in EMT service.

After continued schooling in welding, Ben went to work for the USBR on a temporary appointment. He continued to work for the Bureau from 1976 until his retirement. When Rod Hartman, then mayor, asked him to help out by joining the fire department, Ben could see that there was also a need for more trained EMTs. He has expanded his training in both fields whenever possible.

Bonnie’s work experience covers a wide range of jobs, including cashiering, bookkeeping, acting as an aide in the school system’s “Right-to-Read Program,” running her own business and going to work for the USBR in 1975 as an office worker. She was promoted to “drafting aide” and is still doing drafting. But now she works with highly-automated computer equipment, a long way from the hand-drawn blueprints of her early days.

Keith St. Jeor is another native of Coulee Dam, born in 1974. After graduating from the local high school, he spent the next four years at Eastern Washington University, earning a double degree, in electronics and engineering, gaining experience while working in the school’s technical department. In 2002, he joined the USBR power systems Control Division, where he progressed through all the steps until he is now supervisor of that division, managing it while teaching others.

All three have been involved in service to the community. Ben was fire chief for several years. Although he prefers working with his hands. When Wayne Rawley, then chief, asked Ben to take over the job, Ben did so, taking every opportunity to learn. He is still a firefighter/EMT, although now associated with Grand Coulee Ambulance, as is Bonnie.

Witnessing a tragic accident is what sent Bonnie in search of whatever training in first-aid she could find. At that time, only the Red Cross offered any first -aid program. Bonnie learned all she could, and when EMT training came into being, she took every opportunity to advance her knowledge. In 1983, she was asked to become a part of the Coulee Dam Fire Department, becoming the first woman to serve as both Coulee Dam firefighter and EMT.

Both Ben and Bonnie served for many years on the Coulee Dam Town Council. Both see this as a way of helping to keep their town as “A Great Place to Live.”

Keith has become involved in using his computer and research skills for the same reason, “to keep this town a great place to live.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars has always been one of Ben’s other great interests. He has been very active in the annual ceremony honoring our Veterans at the Memorial Day Isle of Flags. Bonnie does all she can to aid this project. She loves buying at the VFW’s Summer Sales. You can usually find Ben delivering, sorting, in the back fixing stuff, or doing whatever needs doing.

The blood bank is one of Bonnie’s pet projects. When she discovered that blood donated here was not being used for area patients, but was going to the Yakima area instead, she went to work to change things. As a result of her efforts, blood that comes from here is used by our area patients. Part of this blood supply, to the amount of nine gallons, came directly from Bonnie.

Keith is a fairly recent person on the service scene. He has used his computer skills in fact-finding on a wide variety of topics involving our town. We need his skills since a large portion of population is not comfortable or proficient with the computer age.

In closing, Keith, Bonnie and Ben all expressed in their own way the same thought. They want more clarity in how information is obtained and on how decisions are reached.

This is where we, the citizens, need to take a more active part in our town government. We need to make our concerns felt, whether it involves chickens or trees or sidewalks, or moving money around from one fund to another. We need to follow, as best we can, the spending of large sums of money on projects like the waste-water treatment plant.

All three of the candidates expressed over and over that they need to know your questions, your wants, your wishes, so the town remains “A Great Place to Live.” And they all said, “We will do our best to manage the affairs of the town, but we need you to tell us your opinions, your thoughts.”

Carol Netzel

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