If you've ever listened to Talk Back on the old KVAS AM or the various incarnations of KAST's local talk shows over the years, you probably know Don Webb's voice, even if you didn't know his name until now.
For upwards of 40 years, Webb, 73, has been "trying to get the information out to the public" about the issues of the day.
"There's a lot of things happening here and very few of us go to council meetings," he says. "I bring it up on talk shows, just to let the public know." Webb is a familiar figure at Astoria City Council meetings, where he regularly takes advantage of the public comment period. He also writes letters to The Daily Astorian (one appeared Friday).
"It takes time, and you have to be interested in what takes place with your tax dollar. I try to save as much of the taxpayers' money as possible, and get the public involved in seeing just how their money's spent," says Webb.
But he's not always opposed to spending money. In fact, his civic involvement started with concern that budget cuts threatened for the east side fire station could endanger the Astoria Plywood Mill, where Webb worked from 1955 until 1991, when the mill shut down. He circulated petitions opposing the cuts and took them to the City Council. The plywood mill's gone, but the fire station's still there and Citizen Webb continues to express his opinions.
Sandra Swain - The Daily Astorian
Don Webb stands by the 30 foot tall radio tower in his back yard.Take the situation on Marine Drive, where parking for businesses between 31st and 32nd streets has been eliminated. Webb says that wouldn't have happened if the city hadn't done away with the traffic safety committee, which he served on for more than 20 years.
The interpretive center planned for the Astoria Column? Bad idea, Webb says, grabbing a pile of photographs and a geological map lying on a table in his living room to bolster his position.
"The interpretive center should be down at the old train depot, because the Column has a lot of fault lines up there. If you take a look at the Indian canoe foundation you'll see what I mean," he says, pointing to one of his photos. "It's all cracked up and literally ready to fall down right now."
The fate of the Astoria American Legion building, now that the old Safeway is closed?
"I don't want the Legion to leave Astoria. I'd like to see them get the library because there's parking over there and then the city could spend that $750,000 that's burning a hole in their pocket and can only be spent for a new library," Webb says. "That way it would give the city the entire Safeway-Legion block, rather than have the Legion right in the middle of it."
Webb has been a member of the Legion for 50 years, and an Astoria Elks Lodge member for 30 years. One of his hobbies is woodworking, and he's made several trophy cases for the Elks' collection of pins.
"I'm in the process of making four more of them. They hold about 90 pins in each one. It's quite a collection."
Since 1991, Webb has used his woodworking skills to work making wooden writing guides for the blind. "It looks like a picture frame but it holds a piece of paper and lets blind people write a straight line in between the string," Webb explains. "There's a little bead on each line. When they get done with one line they move the bead over to the next line, and so forth."
He also helps with the Astoria Riverfront Trolley and he's an amateur radio buff with a 30-foot radio tower in his back yard and an all-frequency scanner. Semi-retired, Webb is employed as a custodian for the Presbyterian Church and its daycare center.
Except for three years in the U.S. Coast Guard, Webb has always lived in Astoria, and so has his wife, Joan (pronounced "Joanne"). They met when both were working at Van Camp's cannery, where Joan's father, Henry Leinenweber, was the superintendent. The Webbs have two grown children, Richard and Diane, and two granddaughters. Family photos and Joan Webb's original paintings adorn the Webbs' home on Harrison Circle, where they've lived since 1956.
- Sandra Swain