New owners take over at Elkhorn Title in Baker City

By ED MERRIMAN Baker City Herald June 11, 2010 10:35 am

The ownership has changed but the name on the sign, and the services geared to the needs of Eastern Oregon clients, remain the same at Elkhorn Title of Baker City.

The new owners include Russell and Sharon Lester, their daughter, Kris Walker, and son-in-law, Ben Case.

The family members are also partners in ownership and/or management of Eastern Oregon Title in La Grande, and Pioneer Title in Walla Walla.

“The purchase of Elkhorn Title expands their footprint in Eastern Oregon. It just made sense for all parties,” said Joel Winchester, a senior title officer and manager at Elkhorn Title.

He said the company’s roots go back to the second-oldest business in Baker City.

“This is a home-grown title company. We are not changing the name on the sign,” Winchester said. “We are a local company and we always will be.”

He said Russell Lester is an attorney with many years of experience dealing with escrows and trusts.

Russell and Sharon, as well as Dan and Kris, are passionate about the industry, Winchester said. “I think they want to address the needs that people in Eastern Oregon have.

“There’s a lot of ranches and a lot of issues unique to Eastern Oregon, a lot of family-owned properties in trusts,” Winchester said.

He said the new owners and the existing staff at Elkhorn Title have the experience to conduct thorough research, identify mineral, water rights and other issues associated with property transactions and family trusts.

“They have kept all the existing employees and hired one person to fill a position that was vacant when they purchased the business,” Winchester said.

The staff of six includes four full-time employees, including Winchester; Kelly Gregg, escrow officer; Nancy Basche, collection officer; and Zac Cartwright, recorder and escrow assistant; and two part-time title officers, Tamera Pierce and Eden Taylor.

“I think we are poised and positioned correctly in terms of staff with experience and knowledge specific to the needs of Eastern Oregon,” Winchester said.

He said Elkhorn Title Co.’s previous owner, Dan Moore, is still in the Baker City area and is planning to retire and work on some investments.

As far as changes under the new owners, Winchester said, people are going to notice an improved service level and more community involvement by the company and its staff.

“We will be spending more time out in the community, volunteering and sponsoring civic events,” Winchester said.

This spring, he said the company is sponsoring Little League baseball and softball teams.

“We are looking at accomplishing all of those things in more of a collective spirit — more of a 100 percent participation from the staff, rather than just one or two of us going out,” Winchester said.

That collective approach also extends to serving the company’s clients, he said.

“The entire staff will be spending more time with our clients, and it won’t just be management and escrow,” Winchester said.

In addition to title and escrow services, the company offers collection escrow services and general property research services, he said.