When our family moved to Grays Harbor in 1981, we were soon introduced to “They Tried to Cut it All,” Edwin Van Syckle’s account of greed and greatness during the Harbor’s preceding century. The reign of big timber portrayed in that work was only beginning to wind down, and during our 28 years on the Harbor ending in 2009, we watched the resistance of entrenched interests to badly needed diversity to assure Gray’s Harbor’s vitality for future generations. When we arrived, the Satsop nuclear site lured hundreds of Grays Harbor’s youth to drop out of high school, grab a laborer’s card, and head for Fuller Hill for $15 an hour jobs from a variety of contractors. Heck, they were making more money than many of their college-trained teachers at the local schools.
That same year, however, shadows of doom began to settle over Satsop, as Plant 5 and then Plant 3 were terminated. Soon, I found the church I pastored in Montesano bereft of Satsop personnel, and myself employed as a DSHS social worker teaching job search classes to many of those dropouts, who were now required to look with few credentials for spotty 5-6$ hourly jobs at local businesses. My wife lost her part-time job when her company left due to loss of WPPSS revenue. One by one, the big corporate sawmills, and pulp and paper mills were shuttered, shake blocks harder to find, and workers left to survive until the trees planted on Grays Harbor’s forests became marketable for another generation and smaller enterprises.
There were no “shadows,” however, over the activities of the Port of Grays Harbor in advocating nationally and internationally regarding the assets and natural resources offered by the Harbor’s deep water port. Upon returning to the Harbor this week, I was privileged to travel by boat from Hoquiam to Cosmopolis, and to see at sunset, two gleaming ships off loading and loading cargo destined for world and domestic use. I thought about the incredible but unimaginable potential seen by Captain Robert Gray centuries earlier. The Pasha auto terminal, grain silos, biodiesel complex, and the log supply for export and at Sierra Pacific proclaimed vitality and assurance of family wage jobs for the coming winter.
Chuck Caldwell is not only one of my dearest friends, but as his pastor for more than two decades, I feel qualified to commend his character and integrity as a visionary leader on Gray’s Harbor’s Port Commission. Chuck Caldwell is a native son who deeply cares about the future health of Gray’s Harbor’s economy, and the safety and vitality of the Harbor’s environment and wildlife. As I have followed the debate through subscribing to the Montesano Vidette, it has been sad to see the partisan paralysis gripping our nation’s capital gain footholds in spreading mistrust and fear into local elections, as well. This election is not all about oil trains, as that decision awaits significant further analysis, but about who is best qualified to lead Gray’s Harbor’s quest for economic vitality in the decades ahead.
Chuck Caldwell is and will be remembered as a pioneer leader in Gray’s Harbor’s transition from greed to greatness. I sincerely hope that the citizens of the Harbor re-elect the candidate most qualified and versed in the complex facets of the Port’s past, present, and potential for future success in bringing family-wage jobs to Grays Harbor.
David O. Yarbrough