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Friendly guy Ivan Snavely enjoys the best job he's ever had


Ivan Snavely stops for a photo in front of a display of historical photos at the Visitor Center. - Roger S. Lucas photo

If you were to rate the reception you get at the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the greatest, you might rate Ivan Snavely's welcome an 11.

Snavely runs the tour program and the Visitor Center for the Bureau of Reclamation.

"It's the best job I've ever had," Snavely said last week.

His smile, and interest in meeting and serving people, is contagious.

Snavely has been on the job here for eight years, and recalls when he filled out the applications for a variety of federal jobs. Even though he got other offers, this one, at Grand Coulee Dam, was it.

Snavely likes to talk with people, and they like to talk with him.

It might be because he is a visitor at heart. He may have gotten this trait from the fact that he lived in 20 different places before the first grade.

His father, Ivan said, had jobs that took him all over. Later, his four years in Soap Lake and four years in Yakima must have seemed an eternity to the young boy.

He inherited his interest in travel from his father. In recent years he has been to the Arctic Circle, Peru, Mexico and Columbia. Snavely once lived five years in Mexico.

It looks like Panama has hit his bucket list to visit later this year.

"There's five books on Panama waiting for me to pick up," Ivan said. "What a great library system that we have in the North Central Regional Library," Ivan said, adding that he looks forward to adding another destination to the list of places he has visited.

Also on his list was Vietnam, which will have to wait for another year.

The Navy was another favorite place for Ivan, where he served on the USS Denver. He visited plenty of places in his 4.5 years as a sailor, although, he noted, "the ship didn't go very fast, so it took a long time getting to places."

The first thing visitors see when they meet Ivan is the big grin, and they sense that here is a guy who wants to talk.

"We had some 20,000 more visitors last year from the year before," Snavely noted. "You have some people who just like to visit dams. ... I think some of the increase was due to lower gas prices."

People at the Visitor Center this year will find more interactive things to do.

One of these is the snap circuits where people can build different scenarios by snapping pieces together and learning more about electricity. "We started this about a week ago, and the kids love it," Ivan enthused.

In another interactive feature, you can learn how to make a solar oven, and you can get a number of solar oven recipes, courtesy of the crew there.

Snively is a big fan of doing new things to help visitors develop a greater interest in learning about the dam.

Snavely and his crew conduct the regular tours and also do a lot of special tours for specific people.

The crew have a lot of contact with students.

"Kids use Coulee Dam for school assignments, and I find myself answering a lot of questions over the phone," Snavely stated.

"We have talked about taking our story to the classroom as part of an outreach program, and our guides are excited about this," Ivan shared.

Meanwhile, when you go to the Visitor Center, the guy with the big smile is probably Ivan.

Snavely's federal jobs have included stints with the Veterans Administration, the Navy, and now as an information person at Grand Coulee Dam.

While only in his late 50s, he says he could retire, but why would you want to do that when you have the "best job" you "have ever had?"

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