Recap of the League’s 2020 Annual Meeting

Recap of the League’s 2020 Annual Meeting

The Columbia Basin Development League held its 2020 Annual Meeting virtually on Nov. 5, with more than 70 people tuning in. The COVID-19 pandemic kept the League from gathering in person, so the 90-minute meeting took place online for the first time in the League’s 56-year history.

The Board Chair, Mark Stedman, described all the changes as “a new dynamic in this world that we live in. We will survive.”

The meeting served as an opportunity to welcome new trustees, bid farewell to outgoing ones, update the bylaws and honor some distinguished guests and mainstays.

Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-4th District) was honored with a lifetime honorary membership and longtime trustee Jake Wollman, Jr., received the title of Trustee Emeritus. Wollman retires this year after almost three decades on the board. “Jake, you’ve done a great job. Keep in touch with us, and keep participating,” Stedman said.

Newhouse joined the meeting and offered a few brief remarks, calling himself “humbled and honored” to receive the award. He expressed optimism in the completion of the Columbia Basin Project. “I’m confident we can get this done if we continue to work, as we have, together,” he said.

Eight returning trustees were reelected and two new people earned terms on the board. New board members are Russ Kehl of Quincy and Terry Thompson of Othello. Both farmers, Kehl owns Farmer Bean and Seed LLC, Washington Trucking, and serves as the member of the corporate board of CHS, Inc.

Thompson grows potatoes, hay, wheat, corn, and beans, serves as an Adams County Commissioner, and as a member of the City of Othello’s Civil Service Commission.

Returning board members are Chip Dobson, Milt Miller, Mike LaPlant, Ben Leavitt, John Moody, Kevin Lyle, Mark Booker, and Vicki Gordon. The new terms for all 10 people start on Jan. 1 of next year. Treasurer Orman Johnson offered a snapshot of the League’s financial shape, beginning with a prediction of how the 2020 fiscal year would end. “Working capital at the end of 2020 is expected to be $23,000, which is about the same as 2019,” Johnson said.

Income for 2020 was expected to be $191,000, and expenses were expected to reach the same amount. In 2019, total income reached $214,000 and total expenses reached $233,000, due to the Voices Task Force, Johnson said, which included a board-approved stakeholder survey.

Stedman acknowledged the board’s three outgoing members: Wollman, Roger Hartwig, and Stephen McFadden. Wollman and Hartwig will retire, while McFadden has taken a new job in Pasco.

A little later, Harris turned the tables on Stedman and acknowledged him for his two-year term as board chair. His term expires at the end of the year. “Thank you, Mark for your service; you deserve recognition,” Harris said.

Harris, chairman of the League’s Bylaws Committee revealed the result of a vote that proposed amendments and updates the League’s bylaws. The proposed vote received a unanimous approval from all the members who voted, the League’s executive director Vicky Scharlau said. Lastly, Scharlau said that the League is “stepping it up in 2021.

“We have to. We need to,” she said. A 2019 survey of the League discovered that there’s a huge need for the League to become an even louder voice of the Columbia Basin Project, Scharlau said.

So, 2021 will be the year where the League works even harder at tailoring its message to smaller geographic regions within the Project and to local print media within the Project. Furthermore, the survey recommended that the League build a broader list of contacts, and provide general information about the Project more broadly, educating people as to what the Project is all about.

“People are forgetting the value of irrigation and surface water over aquifer water,” Scharlau said. “Sometimes, frankly, they aren’t even forgetting that, they are not even aware they live on top of the nation’s largest irrigation project.”

Stedman closed the meeting by encouraging people to entice others to participate in the League, and reminded the audience of the historical value of the project. “We are not doing this for our children, but possibly for our great-great-great grandchildren. If President (Franklin) Roosevelt would have said, ‘Dang, 77 people are going to die building the Grand Coulee Dam, I am not going support it,’ and had pulled the funds, what would the Columbia Basin look like today? Jackrabbits and sagebrush. We have to think beyond ourselves.”

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