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Governor strolls Jubilee
By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
Bart Murray sat in the shade of Geiser Pollman Park on Friday, awaiting Gov. Ted Kulongoski's first steps into the Miners Jubilee.
"Basically, I just want to take a couple seconds and thank him for his support. I probably have about 37 seconds," laughed Murray, chief executive officer of New Directions Northwest Inc.
The support was for a pair of federal grants that will enable New Directions, a drug and alcohol treatment provider, to serve more patients and create about 13 new jobs in Baker City.
Murray didn't have to wait long to relay his message.
A few minutes later the governor crossed Campbell Street clad in a Stetson cowboy hat, boots and jeans.
The only clue to his identy was a belt buckle engraved with his name and title.
Kulongoski's plane touched down at 9:30 a.m. Friday for a short tour of Baker City and the Miners Jubilee festivities. His visit was short about four hours due to his required presence at his daughter's wedding.
To begin the morning, Kulongoski had a private tour of the National Guard Readiness Center, accompanied by Fred Warner, Baker County commission chair and Randy Guyer, chairman of the Baker County economic development committee.
The governor was enthusiastic not only about the building's progress, but what the Center will bring to Baker City by combining efforts from the community, Blue Mountain Community College and the military department.
"I think it's going to be great," he said. "It's all around the idea that you can bring all these pieces together."
A community college presence is especially important, he said, to provide resources for job training and re-training.
Judging a city by its library
Kulongoski's voice dropped to a whisper as he stepped into the cool interior of the Baker County Public Library.
He stood and scanned the recently remodeled building.
"Places like this really define the community," he said. "Communities are judged more by their libraries than by how high their buildings are."
But it wasn't just the Baker City location that caught his attention. While visiting with library director Aletha Bonebrake, Kulongoski learned about the library branches in outlying communities.
"It's amazing a city this size and you're going to have a branch in Halfway, Huntington and Haines," he said.
From the library Kulongoski walked downtown to tour several locally-owned businesses.
The Geiser Grand Hotel held his attention.
"That is beautiful," he kept saying, gazing up at the exterior.
But prior to entering the hotel, Kulongoski took a few minutes to greet four men who recently returned from Iraq.
"Welcome home," he said to Dean Olmsted, Jason Morgan, Kevin Harrison and Nathan Petrucci.
The governor served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam.
His next downtown stop was Bella at its new Main Street location. Then the group headed toward the office of Historic Baker City Inc.
But a corner sandwich board annoucing The Donut Factory's specials caught the governor's attention, and he made a beeline for the newly opened business.
"I always make a detour when I have the police with me," he laughed.
Darcy Harms just grinned and shook her head. Harms and Randi Martz of the Oregon State Police Dignitary Protection Unit accompanied the governor to Baker City.
After choosing a glazed doughnut the state troopers didn't order anything Kulongoski stopped at HBC and then made a final stop at Thatcher's Ace Hardware.
Throughout the walking tour, Warner and Guyer updated Kulongoski on plans for improvement and what changes have occurred in the city.
"He's just a great asset to us and a contact from the state," Guyer said.
A few final words
Before boarding his plane back to Portland, Kulongoski spoke to a crowd at Mike Nelson's real estate office from atop the Democratic Party's Miners Jubilee parade float.
"I keep coming back because I haven't found a community with the pride and civic involvement as you do," he said.
"If every place in Oregon was like this, we'd get through the tough times."