Posts in Category: Lewis County Life

The Chronicle, just before sunset

The sun illuminates from behind the main office of The Chronicle in Centralia, Wash., on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.

The sun illuminates from behind the main office of The Chronicle in Centralia, Wash., on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.

I took a test shot of sorts using the HDR feature on my Moto X phone today. Some people love the camera, others hate it — but I found it to work rather decently for what I wanted to do, and that was to see if I could get a usable shot of a building that was in essence blocking the sun.

Everything looks better in black and white, I think.

Drama behind the drawdown: Where is the rest of the missing Lewis County Historical Museum money?

During my time as a reporter at The Chronicle in Centralia, Wash., I covered several beats, but the most complex certainly dealt with business and nonprofits. My reporting would reach its climax in November 2011 as it was discovered $465,000 was gone from the Lewis County Historical Museum’s endowment fund.

Half a million dollars missing from a fund that people contributed to — and several donated to upon their death — is a big deal. I received a tip on this November 1, 2011 and went hard to work to get to the bottom of the issue.

It was alleged that the museum’s executive director, Debbie Knapp, made personal transactions using at least $137,000 of that money (“$137,000 Traced to Transactions Allegedly Made by Debbie Knapp From Museum Accounts,” by Christopher Brewer, The Chronicle, Dec. 30, 2011). It was money that should not have been touched by anyone, but also should have been overseen by a board of directors that by all indications did not do their jobs. Knapp has since confessed in court to theft charges and will reportedly spend a year in the Lewis County Jail.

In my reporting, I obtained documents that showed the financial state of the museum. These were difficult to access at first. A financial committee that had been organized to look into the finances had been assembled, and only after museum members voted in all new board members after my first report on the drawdown became public (“Museum Endowment Fund Loses More Than $450,000; Independent Audit Forthcoming,” by Brewer, The Chronicle, Nov. 1, 2011) did there begin any significant movement on figuring out how the money disappeared.

My farewell column, as published in The Chronicle

Some of you asked if you could see my farewell column I wrote for The Chronicle (it was published today). Seeing as their website has a paywall and I am a generous human being, here you go.

Its title is “How To Succeed Without Really Trying.”


There’s a good chance that as your eyes are scanning this column right now that I’ll probably be pointed eastward in my car, somewhere along Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon.

Here’s why: I was escorted out of my cubicle at The Chronicle by our editorial board at noon Wednesday and banished from the city of Centralia by order of the mayor’s office, apparently due to mental anguish suffered by my print colleagues upon learning I would be “crossing over” to a television job in Missouri.

I can’t remember who necessarily said it, but while I was being tied down to my chair and subjected to a blanket party in which every employee of every department of The Chronicle beat me soundly, someone muttered “I can’t believe you transferred to the dark side, you jerk.”

Okay, okay. In all seriousness, I made a decision roughly a month ago to pursue a career opportunity with a television station in Springfield, Mo. As I grew up in Rainier, Ore., 50 miles south of here — and incidentally, the town in which our esteemed columnist Gordon Aadland received his first teaching job outside South Dakota — I consider this entire area home, and it’s never easy to uproot from a place you know best.

It’s tough to go, especially considering I’ll be moving from one of the most majestic areas of the United States to an area that knows no mountains. But it’s something I have to do, although I’ll be leaving behind scores of good people, most of whom have influenced my life for the better.

To those whom I have come to know in a professional capacity: It’s been great working with each of you and I wish you well. I pray our businesses in Lewis County become prosperous, and that our educational system gets the support it needs to continue functioning well.

To the young people of our area: I know a good 96.2 percent of you feel like you’re stuck in Lewis County, but I’d like to challenge you to step out of your social circle or your comfort zone and spend some time helping the less fortunate. You’ll come away with a drastically different view of our area once you get to know some great people who have sadly fallen on hard times.

To everyone else in our area: Take care of the young people and give them something to be proud of in our community. If you’re of the entrepreneurial type, now’s your time to make something happen; my mantra is that if you fail, at least you steered your own ship and gave it your best effort.

To my brothers and sisters in the faith community: Thank you for the support and prayers throughout a trying 2011, and thank you for the prayers going forward. Lewis County’s faith community is full of excellent people.

My parents always tried to instill three core values in me. They taught me to love God, treat others with that same love and respect regardless of what they think of or do to you, and conduct yourself in a respectable manner at all times.

That’s how you succeed without really trying, and I hope I’ve been able to do so here.

Thanks for everything, and I’ll catch you all down the road — that is, if I don’t get kicked out of town again upon reentry.

Above the crater: Mount St. Helens, 31 years later

Whenever May 18 rolls around, it’s always appropriate to take pause and remember one of the greatest natural disasters in U.S. history — one that took numerous lives and changed a landscape for years to come.

Thirty-one years later, the mountain still brews and sends messages that it is by no means sleeping. Though the entire north face of the mountain was blown away by the 1980 eruption in what was the largest recorded landslide in our nation, the mountain is slowly but surely rebuilding itself.

I had the opportunity to hike Mount St. Helens last year with my Uncle Bobby, and it was amazing to scale a peak that just three decades, a year and a day ago towered majestically over southwest Washington. The signs of life under what you can see are nothing short of amazing.

Take a look inside the crater rim of Mount St. Helens in the photo above and click on it for higher resolution. Note Spirit Lake off in the distance, and a bit closer to the picture, all the steam vents coming off the mountain. (Photo credit: Me, but property of The Chronicle.)