The Columbia County Economic Team (CCET) held their annual breakfast on the morning of September 17, where among the awards handed out, Clatskanie’s own Deborah Hazen was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award for her contributions in area economic development.
Guest speakers at the event included Lou Soumas of NEXT Energy, and Registered Dietitian Lindsey Jones, who both shared their experiences of doing business in Columbia County. Braedon Staehly, of Columbia River PUD, was honored with the Rising Star award. Vernonia Springs took Tourism Business of the Year, ORPET took Port of Columbia County Tenant of the Year, and Plymouth Pub took New Business of the Year.
“It went really well. We had about 100 people there and Lou Soumas talked about their project and why they’re coming to Columbia County. Lindsey Jones talked about her experience of starting a business in the county,” CCET Executive Director Chuck Daughtry said.
When it comes to Hazen, it’s immediately clear why she was selected for the Lifetime Achievement award. A sixth-generation local descendant, she hails from a long legacy of those who have worked and contributed to the growth of Columbia County.
Hazen first began working for The Chief during summer vacations in high school and college in 1966 and became the paper’s Editor by 1979. In 1993 she took over ownership of The Chief until 2014, when the newspaper was sold to Country Media. She still occasionally contributes her valuable journalistic talents to the editorial department.
Hazen said it was through her work at the paper that she first began to get involved in community service. She is a charter member of the Clatskanie Historical Society, a board member for the Clatskanie Senior Citizens, Inc, she sits on the steering committee of the recently developed Columbia County Tourism Initiative, is the Director and Fundraising Chair of the Clatskanie Foundation, and is also a CCET board member – just to name a few.
Perhaps most notably amongst the community since her retirement from The Chief is her efforts contributed towards renovating the Clatskanie Cultural Center and the Senior Citizens’ Flippin Castle. Hazen lead the fundraising campaign for the cultural center, once known as the I.O.O.F. Building, founded in 1926 by the local chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Through her role as an advisory committee member for the C. Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Trust, Seattle foundation, Hazen helped raise over $3 million for the project.
“There were several people who were as critical to the project as I was – Elsa and Dee Wooley, Dave Hicks, who served as the volunteer project engineer and, most especially, Mike Engel, who served as volunteer project manager who was basically volunteering full-time for two years to oversee the construction,” Hazen said.
Hazen was also quick to point out there were others to recognize when it came to the Flippin Castle. She said the Clatskanie Senior Citizens, Inc. board members, notably Bob Horness, Beki Fisher and Joy Green, are all working very hard on the Castle restoration project.
“She’s just been incredible,” Daughtry said. “What she’s done in her lifetime with Clatskanie and the county, she gives a lot back. She represents a part of the county at the extreme north end, so her input allows us to tie the county together. We were really happy to have her on the board. What she’s done with the Clatskanie Cultural Center has just been phenomenal. I think it’s the nicest venue in Columbia County and it’s really been saved and preserved for the next generation.”
When asked what receiving the Lifetime Achievement honor meant to her that day, it becomes clear that Hazen is uncomfortable with tooting her own horn.
“I mean, I have done what I’ve done, both running the newspaper and doing the various community services activities, not to get recognition, but just because, I guess, I was raised with the ethic that – this may be kind of paraphrased from the Bible – those to whom much is given, much is expected,” Hazen said. “I mean, my family was never wealthy, you don’t get rich from running a newspaper, but I felt like I was given certain talents and abilities and I was able to build relationships over the 40 years I spent at The Chief and I feel like I should use that for the community.”