Fifty-two years after screaming his way into the world, Doug Brown is back where he was born.


Brown, who recently took over as Seaside School District's maintenance supervisor, works in a corner office in the district's main building.

The building was once the only hospital in town.

"I'll probably die here too," Brown joked.

Brown left his position as head custodian at Gearhart School in December to take on the challenges of managing five schools, a district bus barn, a shop, the district office and nine custodians.

"I thought I could come in here and conquer the world," Brown said. "That doesn't happen overnight."

The world may still be well out of reach tomorrow, but Brown is making headway.

One of his first projects is to figure out the various school heating systems, including some old-fashioned boilers. That way if a system goes down, the district won't necessarily have to bring in an outside contractor.

He's also learning the layouts of buildings, slogging through paperwork, and making plans to catch up on long-neglected painting - not to mention waiting for a break in the rain so he can do some roof work at the high school.

Then there's the safety meetings, the moss that needs to be scraped off the old hospital and a request for a lunch tray railing at one of the elementary schools.

"I try to not spend too much time in here," he said, gesturing at the ugly brown paneling and papers in his office.

Before working for the school district, Brown was a timber faller. He rallied against the cold, the wet and the summer heat for Crown Zellerbach for 16 years and later owned his own business.

But he left the trade seven years ago. Trees were getting smaller. Environmental concerns were becoming a bigger issue. And the work, which was always hard and dangerous, was wearing him down.

"It got to where it wasn't fun anymore," Brown said. "That and I'm not getting any younger."

So he moved on to fixing swing sets and door locks and hanging shelves and cleaning gutters for Gearhart School, making many friends in the process.

Gearhart Principal Sande Brown (no relation) said Brown seemed to get things done before the work orders were even filled out.

"You better not joke out loud that you want to add onto your house, because you'll get home and Doug will have already done it," she said with a grin.

Sande also said that Brown was great about letting kids who needed a little extra attention work with him one-on-one.

"All the students love Mr. Brown," said Gearhart secretary Jan Robison, who worked with Brown for seven years.

Although Brown graduated from Seaside High School, he did leave the coast for a brief stint in Colorado when his father, who drove logging trucks, took a job down there.

Initially Brown was excited about moving to an area rich with deer hunting, sledding and snowmobiling opportunities. But after walking to school in temperatures that dipped to 50 degrees below zero, he changed his mind.

"After that first year, I wanted out of there," he said. "It was so cold."

Moving back to mild Seaside was a relief. Besides, his original home also offers opportunities for clam digging and beach combing, two of his other favorite hobbies.

Brown still enjoys hunting ("It's more of a camping trip to me.") And he still uses his expertise as a logger to top trees and take down dangerous trees from people's yards.

"It reminds me how much I don't miss falling timber every day," he said.

With a long to-do list to keep him going, and high expectations for clean gutters and picked-up school yards, Brown said he is enjoying his new job.

"It's a challenge, but it's a lot of fun," he said.

- Leanne Josephson


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