There's no denying that life for many people is way busy these days. Work and family obligations keep residents on the run, always, it seems, with too much to do.
Despite these demands, a significant portion of the population goes beyond these commitments to volunteer their time for the good of the community. Taking that dedication a step further, some people assume the role of community leaders, working in visible roles to help shape public policy.
What drives these movers and shakers, working for free for the common good? CRBJ interviewed some civic leaders around the region to find out how they see themselves and what motivates them to go above and beyond.
Tiffany Estes, Astoria
Tiffany Estes is a relative newcomer to Astoria who is making great strides as a volunteer community leader. Estes is the wife of Astoria Community Development Director Brett Estes; the couple moved to the city two and a half years ago when Brett
Astoria resident and entrepreneur Tiffany Estes is president of ADHDA and is president elect of Astoria Rotary. She devotes a great deal of her volunteer time to downtown Astoria improvement efforts. Photo: Joanne Rideout
accepted his municipal job.
She's the president of ADHDA, the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association and president-elect of Astoria Rotary. Estes is making things happen and generating positive buzz, especially for her efforts to revive downtown projects that have long been on the back burner.
The Estes lived previously for more than five years in Hillsboro, where Tiffany was also very involved in community organizations like the Rotary Club, and other groups.
She owns her own business, graphic design and copywriting firm Whole Brain Creative. Clients keep her busy 40-50 hours a week. When she moved to Astoria, Estes said she at first thought, "Here's my chance to scale back and just be a citizen."
It didn't work out that way.
"I tried it for six months, and was incredibly unhappy," she said. "I felt I didn't know people. I want to make a difference and be part of the community - not just existing there."
Estes said she has trouble turning away from a good challenge, and relishes the role of facilitator to help makes things happen.
"People know what needs to be done, but they don't always know what needs to be done first," she said. "It's rewarding when I have a meeting and 30 people show up."
Estes said that while she enjoys discussing community issues with her husband, she doesn't get the inside scoop just because she's the spouse of a city official.
"Brett is very sensitive about not giving me access to information that John Q. Public wouldn't have," she said. "It's like the kid whose parent is the teacher - they have a harder time in class."
So far in her tenure as ADHDA president, Estes has participated in that organization's efforts to address some big Astoria issues, such as the city's derelict building ordinance, and plans for rejuvenating the American Legion Block (where the old Safeway store once stood.
"I want to make a difference and leave something behind," she said.
Shelly Pollock, Long Beach Peninsula
Many people on the Long Beach Peninsula know Shelly Pollock as the owner of NW Insurance and Financial Services; she's also one of the organizers of Peninsula
|Long Beach Peninsula leader and business owner Shelly Pollock wears many civic hats, but is perhaps best known to residents as one of the organizers of the Grassroots Garbage Gang's regular beach cleanup events. Photo: Joanne Rideout|
Women in Business, a local networking group.
Environmentally-minded volunteers may know her best as one of the driving forces behind the Grassroots Garbage Gang, a citizen's group that orchestrates beach cleanup events three times a year. Volunteers pick up trash on the 28-mile long beach that is the Peninsula. That event has been going strong since 2001.
Pollock seeks out positive involvement in the community. She's a born networker.
"I love meeting and talking to people," she said. "When I tend to get involved or start something it's where I see a need."
She's good at bringing people together and making things happen.
"There's a lot of satisfaction in being part of a really special community," she said. "I'm helping to do things in a community that cares."
Pollock describes the Peninsula's population as "eclectic," a collection of diverse individuals who all cherish the special environment they share.
"I get to meet the most incredible people," she said. "When you meet other volunteers you have an instant affinity. You have something in common."
Pollock and her husband have lived on the Peninsula for 14 years.
"It's about connecting to other people who care," she said. "A have a lot of community pride - I get emotional about it."
Mark Kujala, Warrenton
Mark Kujala [pronounced KWEE-uh-luh] has been on the Warrenton City Commission for five years, but his roots in the community go back way further than that.
Kujala, his parents and grandparents were all born in Warrenton. These days he helps run the family business, Oregon Ocean Seafoods, which makes Skipanon Brand canned fish products.
|Warrenton City Commissioner Mark Kujala devotes many hours of his free time to civic projects. Photo: Joanne Rideout|
He said being on the city council and involved in civic affairs continues to be a learning experience.
"It's been a blessing to be in this community because I've gotten to witness real leadership," he said. "I've become aware of all of the people who are working anonymously for the betterment of the community."
Initially, Kujala said he was motivated to get involved in local politics to address what he felt was a lack of accountability at the city government level.
"I felt the city could do better," he said.
Among the most important lessons of leadership he's learned is the importance of keeping lines of communication open.
"You have to connect with people personally," he said. "People expect a lot from their leaders."
Kujala said he's proud of his work on the storm water master plan for Warrenton.
"It took many years to complete," he said. "Warrenton is a low-lying area with many hydrology concerns."
Kujala is also involved with the Rotary Club, the chamber of commerce, and is on the Liberty Theater board.
He said that while having lived here all his life is an advantage in some ways, "I'm also learning so much about things I took for granted," he said. "It's about being an advocate for what you think is right; for what is in the best interests of your constituents."