The 1997 Oregon State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1220 to establish the Oregon State capitol Foundation and an Oregon State Capitol Foundation Fund. At that point, Foundation members were appointed and work began on a strategic plan for accomplishing their purpose. Individuals currently serving on the Foundation’s Board of Directors are listed below.
Hon. Jason Allmand Atkinson
In 1998, Jason Atkinson was elected to his first public office as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives. He served as a Republican representing District 51, which includes Jackson and Josephine counties. He served one term before election to the Oregon State Senate in 2000. Atkinson was elected from District 25, once again representing Jackson and Josephine counties in Southern Oregon. In 2002, the district was changed to District 2. Atkinson was re-elected to a second four-year Oregon Senate term without opposition in 2004. In the State Senate he has served as Deputy Majority Leader, Majority Whip and Committee Chair. He did not run for reelection in 2012.
Frances “Frankie” Bell capped a three-decade career as State Capitol Visitor Services manager by helping to launch the Capitol Foundation. The Capitol is her “home away from,” and she is frequently consulted by the news media and historians about its history. She takes great pleasure in helping with projects to enhance the Capitol’s appeal to visitors, and students in particular. She was born in Portland, Oregon and raised in Eugene. She attended the University of Oregon.
Sen. Lee Beyer
After military service, Lee graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in management and started his first professional job managing vocational training programs. During that period, Lee assisted the Linn, Benton and Lincoln County Commissions in establishing the forerunner of today’s non-profit Community Services Consortium, Inc.
In the mid-1970s, Lee accepted a position as a management analyst with the Oregon Executive Department. In 1978, Lee began managing one of the largest employment and vocational training programs in Oregon. In 1983, Lee joined the Eugene Business Assistance Team, formed in the midst of the 1980s recession to help promote economic recovery. Lee worked as a small business advocate and development consultant through 1997 when he was hired as the Executive Director for the Metro Partnership, Inc.
Lee’s community service began in 1978 when he was appointed to the Springfield City Planning Commission. That appointment led to his first elective office as a Springfield City Councilor in 1986, where he remained until 1993. In 1991 he entered the Oregon Legislature as a state representative. In 1998 Lee was elected to the State Senate.
In 2001, Governor Kitzhaber asked Lee to join the Oregon Public Utility Commission, a consumer protection regulatory agency that oversees all private electric, telecommunications, natural gas and water utilities. During his almost nine years on the Commission, Lee developed a reputation as a tough but fair regulator. In that time period, the Commission protected ratepayers from over $600 million in requested rate increases. At the same time, at Commission direction, Oregon became a national leader in pursuing energy efficiency and shifting to renewable energy resources.
Lee returned to the legislature in 2011 and has chaired the Senate Business and Transportation committee.
Lee Beyer has been married to his wife Terry for 45 years. They raised all three of their children in Springfield and continue to live there today.
Finance and Budget Committee Chair
I first entered the Oregon State Capitol in the mid-1960s, probably in conjunction with a college political science field trip. This introduction through the revolving doors included meeting with an Oregon lobbyist, then in only his first decade in that capacity. I’ve never told him this story before, but that lobbyist was Ted Hughes. I’m not sure either why it’s relevant to this statement of interest. Over five years later as a recent law school graduate, I was living at Willamette University, studying to take the Oregon State Bar exam. One afternoon, I walked across State Street into the Capitol again and dropped off a resume. (It was somewhat shorter than the one submitted here.) The legislature was still in session in July that year, 1973. (In fact, one of my fellow Bar-review students was a firstsession member of the Oregon House, and his legislative duties kept him from leaving the Capitol to brush up for the exam. Luckily, both of us passed.) At 180 days, 1973 was then the longest-session in Oregon history, exceeding the preceding regular session’s length—also a record in its time—by a whopping 29 days. Less than two months after the 1973 session’s Sine Die, I started work in the new Office of Legislative Research. Unfortunately, our first office was in the basement of the Public Service Building, not in the Capitol. In 1974, we relocated to the Capitol basement. As staff director for the Commission on Indian Services, my office jumped to a spacious suite on the fourth floor. I have been privileged to work in, near, or around the Capitol, as a legislative staffer or lobbyist, for about 38 years. Early on, I gained Capitol experience as a doorkeeper during the 1974 special session. In 2012, I hawked Oregon Wonderland plates at the annual Concours d’Elegance in Forest Grove. And, over the years, I’ve experienced shifts of the Lobby Message Center from outside the Senate chamber to the Capitol basement. These exposures have given me a strong relationship with the building, from before the time it flew with its own wings. And it frames the reasons I’m interested in serving on the Oregon State Capitol Foundation board. What is it that I might contribute as a member of the board? I’m not sure. But I’m interested in many aspects of the Capitol’s history, its present and future. And I’m willing to pitch in on projects that will help to polish the Capitol’s service for future generations of Oregonians.
Hon. Jane Cease
Retired, February of 1998.
- Manager, ODOT Growth Management Program, 1996-1998
- Manager, DMV Branch, Oregon Department of Transportation, 1991-1996
- Oregon State Senator, 1985-1991; Chair, Revenue & School Finance, Transportation, Joint Water Policy, & Motor Vehicle Code Revision Committees. Member, Business, Housing & Finance; Government Operations & Elections, Sunset Review, Legislative Administration, & Legislative Counsel Committees.
- Oregon State Representative, 1978-1985; Chair, Transportation. Member, State & Local Road Funding, Revenue & School Finance, Legislative Policy, Intergovernmental Affairs, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committees.
- Public Information Officer, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Recycling Information Office in Solid Waste Division, 1975-1978.
- Research Analyst for Transportation & Land Use Plans, Daniel, Mann, Johnson, Mendenhall Company, 1973-1974.
Affiliations & Memberships, Current
- City Club of Portland (Past Board of Governors member, Past Chair of Research Board).
- Oregon Women’s Political Caucus (Past President of Portland Area Chapter).
- League of Women Voters (Past President of Portland League).
Affiliations & Memberships, Past
- Women’s Transportation Seminar.
- Northwest Citizen’s Forum on Hanford Nuclear Defense Waste, U. S. Department of Energy.
- Portland/Multnomah Commission on Aging.
- Oregon Commission for Women.
- National Highway Transportation Safety Advisory Committee.
- Portland Chamber of Commerce.
- National Women’s Conference Delegate.
- Governor McCall’s Community Services Committee.
- Mayor Goldschmidt’s City Budget Committee.
- Legislature’s Legislative Improvement Committee.
- Oregon Women’s Political Caucus—Sue Juba Award & Mary Rieke Award.
- ACLU Legislative Award.
- Oregon Environmental Council Legislative Award.
- Oregon Association of County Engineers & Surveyors Outstanding Legislative Leadership Award.
- Oregon Transit Association Transportation Champion of the Year Award.
- Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, Newcomb College of Tulane University, 1958.
- Coursework toward Masters Degree in History of Art, Claremont Graduate School of Associated Colleges of Claremont, 1959-1960.
Born in Columbus, Mississippi, January 23, 1936. Attended local grade and high schools. Married in 1960 to Ron Cease, now Professor Emeritus, Portland State University. Two daughters, one foster son, one granddaughter, one grandson. Lives in Northeast Portland home. Enjoys gardening indoors and out, opera, reading murder mysteries, history & biography, swimming, walking, traveling.
Rep. Brian Clem
Brian Clem is a 5th generation Oregonian, born and raised in Coos Bay. After serving as Student Body President, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oregon State University.After college, he worked for Oregon State Senator Cliff Trow before moving on to work for United States Senator Ron Wyden.Brian has been appointed by two governors to the Oregon Student Assistance Commission and was serving in his 4th term as its chair and his second term as President of the Salem City Club before resigning to serve House District 21.In 2000, Brian established his own small business, OnSite PC Help and in 2010 he co-founded an international trading company, Pangaea Trading Company which focuses on exporting Oregon goods abroad.
He serves on the Community Council of the Willamette Academy.He and his wife Carol live in south-central Salem near McKinley Elementary School with their active daughter Kohana!
Managed and directed increasingly complex organizations and responsibility for leading highly diverse civilian and military teams, developing and implementing policy and guidance, creating, and monitoring long and short range goals, and preparing, defending and executing budgets.
Fire Recovery Project Manager, Legislative Administration, Oregon State Capitol. Currently managing the restoration of the Governor’s Suite damaged in the Labor Day weekend fire in 2008.
Facility Services Manager, Legislative Administration, Oregon State Capitol. Managed the Operations and Maintenance, Legislative Publications and Distribution Branches. Ex Officio Member of Oregon State Capitol Foundation Board. Managed capital construction and major repair projects. Responsible for building mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Staff of 30 employees. 13 years
Captain, United States Navy, retired. 28 years:
- Managed $50 million contract and 2000 man-year annual map and chart production by the Defense Mapping Agency. Re-engineered headquarters organization to be more effective and efficient in the emerging era of digital mapping and charting. Served for a year in a federal Senior Executive Service position. 3 years
- Directed the operation of the Navy’s worldwide meteorological, oceanographic and hydrographic activities including twelve oceanographic and hydrographic survey ships, three aircraft and two production centers with annual budget of $100 million. 3 years
- Commanding Officer of the Navy’s aviation weather and typhoon forecasting facility in the Republic of the Philippines. Credited with avoiding over one million dollars in operating expenses and for providing the best customer service maintenance support facility in the Navy. 3 years
- Deputy Superintendent, Naval Observatory with staff of 200 civilian scientists and technicians determining precise star positions and keeping the national time standard. 2 years
M.S., Oceanography, U. S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA
B.S., U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD
OSCF Vice chair
History Committee Chair
Information coming soon.
Special Events Committee Chair
Judy Hall worked for the Oregon State Senate for over 30 years, serving 16 years as Secretary of the Senate, the elected chief administrative officer and parliamentarian.
She has a B.A. in Management of Human Resources from George Fox University and is a graduate of the Legislative Staff Management Institute, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. She has held leadership positions in the National Conference of State Legislatures, American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries and Council of State Governments. She currently serves as co-chair of the Program Committee for the YMCA Youth & Government program.
Development Committee Co-chair
Information coming soon.
Dan is the president of Crosswater Strategies, a Northwest government relations and public affairs firm. He has lobbied at the federal, state and local levels for more than 20 years, representing a broad range of corporate, association, non-profit and public agency clients. Prior to becoming a lobbyist, Dan held several senior staff roles at the Oregon legislature, including serving as communications director for a House Speaker, the chief of staff of the House Majority Office and as a committee administrator. Dan started his professional career as an aide to U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield. Dan grew up in Salem, so he has always been close to the State Capitol. Dan and his family now live in Lake Oswego.
Rep. Rick Lewis
Representative Rick Lewis was appointed to House District 18 after the resignation of Vic Gilliam. Prior to joining the legislature, Lewis served as the Mayor of Silverton and as the Chief of Police for Silverton.
Rep. Lewis is a life member of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and served as the organization’s President in 1991. In 2005, he took a six month leave of absence from the Silverton Police Department to teach the Executive Leadership Program for the Iraqi Police leadership during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After spending three years in the United States Army and two years in the Wyoming National Guard, he graduated from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice.
Rick has been married to his wife Pat for 38 years. He has six grown children.
Audit Committee Chair
Amity High School, Willamette University 1961 BA Pol. Science
US Air Force, 1st Lt. 1961 through 1965 Vietnam in 1965
Meeker Seed & Grain Co, Pres & CEO 1966 through 1987
Victory Capital Management Managing Director 1993 – 2003
Barrett Business Services Board Member 1992 to present
First Federal Saving Board Member 1975 to Present
(Currently Chairman of the Board)
Oregon Mutual Insurance Co. Board Member 2000 to present
State of Oregon
State Representative 1969 – 1972
State Senate 1972 – 1987 Senate Republican Leader 1983 – 87
State Treasurer 1987 to 1993
Oregon State Capital Foundation 2002–to present-Currently Chairman
Oregon Anglers 2002 to present – currently President
Mid Valley Rehabilitation Inc Board Member 2002 to present
Tony and Carolyn were married in 1962-and have two children and have two children and one grandchild all living in Oregon.
Fred Neal was born in Wendell, Idaho, raised in Ashland, Oregon, graduated from Beaverton High School and attended Pomona College. He earned his law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School and has been a member of the Oregon State Bar since 1976.Neal has held various government-related positions in Oregon over a 32-year period. He retired in July 2006 as campaign finance manager for the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, Elections Division, a position he held for 11 years.Neal began his career as a deputy legislative counsel for the Oregon legislature. As executive director of the Sate Court Finance Action Committee, he was instrumental in passage of the 1982 State Court Reform that reorganized the trial court system under state administration and funding. For five years, he served as Legal Counsel for the League of Oregon Cities and was then the intergovernmental relations officer for Multnomah County for seven years.Neal recently spent seven years as the Oregon ACLU Affiliate’s representative on the American Civil Liberties Union national board, where he served as the National Affiliate Affirmative Action Officer. He is currently serving on the Oregon ALCU affiliate’s board of directors, where he has served intermittently since 1987.
Neal has also served on the board of directors for the Oregon State Capitol Foundation, the National Association of Counties, the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, and the Right to Privacy PAC.
Executive Committee Chair
Development Committee Co-chair
Joan Plank is the chair of the Oregon State Capitol Foundation. She was named to the OSCF in 2013 to lead the foundation’s Events Committee and worked on the 2013 Hello Again Social and the State Capitol 75th Birthday Celebration.
Before joining OSCF, Joan worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation for 36 years. She retired in 2012 after serving as ODOT’s Chief of Staff for six years and as Government Relations Manager for more than two decades. Joan started her ODOT career at DMV shortly after high school and worked full-time while earning her Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Portland State University. She also worked in the state’s tourism program when it was part of ODOT and served as a grant manager in the Public Transit Division.
Sen. Arnie Roblan
Senator Arnie Roblan represents the scenic and rugged central Oregon coast comprising the 5th Senate District. Previously Senator Roblan served 4 terms as Representative for House District 9, two terms as Co-Speaker.
During his tenure as the Co-Speaker — in a House divided between 30 Democrats and Republicans — for the 2011-12 legislative sessions, Senator Roblan became the driving force behind legislation that would help move Oregon forward on important issues. At the conclusion of the 2012 Legislative Session, he was able to complete his work on issues that benefited all Oregonians and particular those in his rural and coastal region:
- Passage of the Oregon Investment Act, Oregon Credit Enhancement Act and expansion of Enterprise Zones throughout the state;
- Passage of Health Care Transformation and the Health Insurance Exchange to improve quality and access to care while reducing costs for all Oregonians;
- Passage of the Early Learning Council and the Oregon Education Investment Board Achievement Compacts to move Oregon further down the road on important efforts to educate the next generation of critical thinkers and entrepreneurs;
- Passage of Senate foreclosure protection to ensure that all homeowners have access to face-to-face mediation.
Senator Roblan’s commitment to his community long precedes his election to public office. He is a founding board member of Friends of New and Sustainable Industry (FONSI) and has served on the boards of several local organizations, including the Coos Bay/ North Bend Water Board, the Coos Educators Federal Credit Union, Belloni Ranch, YMCA Youth in Government and the Oregon Coastal Environments Network (OCEAN). Senator Arnie Roblan also served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Southwestern Oregon Transportation and Economic Development Workgroup, the Oregon Education Accountability Roundtable, the Governance Group of the Capitol Restoration Project, the Coastal Caucus and the Chalkboard Project.
A former math teacher and principal of Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, Senator Roblan earned his B.A. degree from the University of Washington in 1971 and his M.A. degree from the University of Oregon in 1983. He began his lengthy career teaching mathematics at Marshfield High School. He was soon promoted to Dean of Students, later to Assistant Principal and finally, in 1989, to Principal.
Senator Roblan’s received the Milken Education Award in 1997 and, in 2002, was recognized by his alma mater as a University of Oregon Distinguished Alumnus. In 2011, the Oregon Business Association named him Statesman of the Year Award in recognition of his extraordinary achievements for public service, consensus building, and forging collaborative solutions to critical issues facing Oregon. In 2012, he was honored with the “Public Officials of the Year” awards from Governing Magazine.
Senator Arnie Roblan and his wife Arlene, who have lived in Coos Bay for the past 35 years, raised three wonderful children of whom he is very proud.
Communications Committee Chair
When you need an experienced communications strategist and strong project manager who can translate complex topics into accessible language with a true human touch, I’m your guy. I enjoy working with private businesses, government agencies and nonprofits who want to spark change for the better.After hours, I’m an actor, director and producer for stage and screen. Theater, video and film work enriches my professional life by making me a better storyteller and a stronger leader who’s not afraid of taking risks, while always keeping my focus on the human experience as seen through the eyes of others.Specialties
Public affairs and intergovernmental relations, policy development and strategic communications, public and stakeholder engagement, digital and social media engagement, editorial and media relations, special events, publicity and marketing, legislative relations, testimony and speech writing, crisis and issues management, project management and television, radio and video production for business, government and non-profits.
Member, Board of Directors at Conservation Biology Institute
Corvallis OR | June 2014 – PresentI support the Conservation Biology Institute by offering my strategic communications expertise as an elected member of the board of directors. The Conservation Biology Institute works to conserve the diversity of life on this planet through applied conservation research and education. We conduct research — alone or in collaboration with others — to actively seek creative new ways to address a wide range of ecological problems, from endangered species to regional conservation planning. We develop innovative conservation tools, techniques and analyses that help organizations, agencies and companies utilize the best available conservation evidence. More at consbio.org.
Salem OR | August 2013 – PresentAs a member of the Executive Member and the Communications Committee Chairman, I provide pro bono strategic communications and media relations counsel to OSCF. I also formerly served as Interim Treasurer. The Oregon State Capitol Foundation is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the State Capitol and the shared heritage that it represents for all Oregonians. More at oregoncapitolfoundation.org.Actor, director, producer, marketing committee member and past president and board member at Pentacle Theatre
Salem OR | 1976 – PresentI am honored to be a lifetime member and active Pentacle Theatre volunteer as an actor, director and member of the theatre’s marketing committee and ad-hoc member of its history and finance committees. I have served as governing board member and president, and managed a $1 million capital development campaign for theatre improvements.Founded in 1954, Pentacle Theatre is the second-oldest and most successful non-profit community theatre in Oregon. Pentacle Theatre presents an eight-play season in an intimate theater-in-the-woods west of downtown Salem. The theatre relies on a strong cadre of volunteer actors, directors and committee members backed by an active nine-member governing board and five paid staff. More at pentacletheatre.org.Group Account Director at PRR
Seattle WA | December 2014 – July 2016 (1 year 8 months)
Client relationship manager and strategic communications lead for ODOT’s groundbreaking statewide road usage charge program, called OReGO. Responsible for contract administration, staffing and budgeting, monthly project reporting and invoicing, and fiscal analysis. Coordinated planning and delivery of a comprehensive communications and marketing program designed to engage, recruit, and provide a superior user experience for up to 5,000 volunteers who are participating in OReGO. More at www.myOReGO.org.
Project manager, ODOT Region 1 STIP Website and Infographics. Lead proposal development, contract negotiations, staffing and budgeting, monthly project reporting and invoicing, and fiscal analysis. Coordinated planning, development and delivery of digital design services aimed to educate and engage the public about ODOT’s regional Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for the greater Portland metropolitan area and surrounding counties. Managed design and development of a unique website and infographics at www.ODOTR1STIP.org to keep Portland-region residents informed about the STIP and encourage meaningful involvement throughout its development — from concept to project selection. Oversaw ongoing website development and refinement. More at ODOTR1STIP.org.
Strategic Communications Program Manager at Oregon Department of Transportation
Salem OR | March 2014 – September 2014 (7 months)
Developed and implemented internal and external strategic communications and marketing programs for the ODOT Transportation Development Division designed to:
- Increase overall awareness of agency programs, services and initiatives.
- Increase the use of agency services by internal and external stakeholders and gain new customers.
- Engage existing and new customers and stakeholders through a variety of traditional, digital and social media.
Project Manager at Oregon Department of Transportation
Salem OR | September 2013 – September 2013 (1 month)
Temporary assignment as a strategic communications project manager for the Oregon Passenger Rail project and State Radio Project.
Senior Account Supervisor at Edelman
Portland OR | September 2004 – August 2013 (9 years)
Public Involvement, Outreach and Communications program manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation’s 10-year, $1.3 billion OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program.
Led strategic messaging and stakeholder outreach for the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay and the CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington. Oregon media relations coordinator for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports.
Public Affairs, Community Relations and Government Communications at Oregon Department of Transportation
Salem OR | 1985 – 2004 (19 years)
Supervised, managed and delivered public affairs, communications, media relations and public involvement programs for the Oregon Department of Transportation, and on special assignments to the state economic development and energy departments, and the governor’s office.
I was responsible for Public Affairs and Public Involvement for the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Highway, DMV, Public Transit, Aeronautics, Rail, Traffic Safety, Motor Carrier, Transportation Development and Central Services divisions.
As a loaned executive from ODOT, I was called upon by the Governor’s Office to serve as the interim Communications Manager for the state economic development department. I served many years as the chief public affairs and information officer for the Oregon Department of Energy’s state emergency response team for the Trojan nuclear plant.
As ODOT’s communications manager for the Oregon Transportation Initiative, I helped Gov. John Kitzhaber work with special transportation stakeholders, business leaders and citizens to develop new investment strategies for the state’s transportation infrastructure.
My experience and skill in writing legislative testimony and speeches for state transportation executives helped enhance their agencies’ reputation among legislators, the Oregon congressional delegation, local elected officials and key transportation stakeholders.
I have created, written and produced award-winning radio, television and multimedia productions for public agencies and nonprofits alike.
Landscape Architect at Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department
Salem OR | 1974 – 1985 (11 years)
Landscape Architect and Park Planner for major state parks throughout Oregon. Led community outreach, public involvement, intergovernmental coordination, master plan research and development, publication coordination, public presentations and photography. Established modern public involvement practices as the standard for state park planning and development programs.
Michigan State University
Bachelor’s degree, Landscape Architecture
Personal side: performing arts, theatre, acting, directing, scuba diving, international travel, ocean ecology, science, astronomy, cooking, gastronomy, family, friends.
- Executive Member and Communications Committee Chairman at Oregon State Capitol Foundation, August 2013 – Present.
- Member, Board of Directors at Conservation Biology Institute, June 2014 – Present.
- Actor, director, producer. Marketing committee member. Past-president/board member. at Pentacle Theatre, 1976 – Present.
- Co-host of Theatre Talk on KMUZ community radio, 2017-Present.
Hon. Norm Smith
Norm Smith joined The Ford Family Foundation (www.tfff.org) in 1997 as its president. He was previously vice president in the Law and Government Affairs Division of AT&T. Norm’s career includes thirteen years with AT&T in Portland, Denver, and San Francisco, eleven years of law practice in Portland and Washington, D.C., and three terms as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives. He is a member of the Oregon State Bar and the Colorado Bar Association.
Norm is a fourth generation Oregonian, a graduate of Northwestern University and Willamette University College of Law. He is on the board or directors of the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Chalkboard Project, Philanthropy Northwest, and the Oregon State Capitol Foundation.
Norm and his wife, Kathy, reside in Roseburg, Oregon, which is the home of The Ford Family Foundation. They are both supporters of the Start Making A Reader Today (SMART) program, and have one son, Spencer, who is with Google in Mountain View, CA.
Fred VanNatta is the founding father of VanNatta Public Relations, (VPR) originally known as “Public Affairs, Inc.” VanNatta’s continuous leadership and guiding vision has been a stable force in this dynamic company for almost four decades.
VanNatta grew up in the back woods of Columbia County on a cattle and hog ranch, now converted into a small woodlands timber operation. He is a graduate of Willamette University with a degree in Political Science. He earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Oregon in Political Science. VanNatta’s daughter Mary Louise joined the company in 1986. “One of the great rewards in my life has been having my daughter Mary Louise join the firm. She has expanded the scope of talents, expertise and service that we provide to clients,” VanNatta said.
Mary Louise was a rewarding and welcome addition, as well as the catalyst that initiated the company’s expansion. In the beginning however, VanNatta primarily focused on public relations and political strategies for candidates and issues. During his first year in business, VanNatta kept busy as the 1968 Reagan for President campaign’s Western Regional Director. In his second year, he served as Chief of Staff for the 1968 Republican Governor’s Conference in Palm Springs, where California Governor Ronald Reagan served as Conference Chair.
Back in Salem, VanNatta soon realized that his services needed to be extended to associations and other clients requiring year-round guidance and support. His first client was the Association of Engineering Employees (AEE). VanNatta’s relationship with AEE began in January 1969 and still exists today. Three days later after obtaining AEE as his first client, VanNatta acquired his second client – the Oregon Home Builders Association (OHBA). VanNatta worked for the OHBA from 1969 through 2003, serving as both the Executive Vice President and chief lobbyist during most of his tenure. In the latter years, he lobbied and transferred administrative duties to others. Under VanNatta’s management, OHBA won awards for its outstanding membership drives, member involvement, and innovative and successful Political Action Committee (PAC). During his time with the Home Builders, VanNatta recruited and helped elect two past state presidents to the legislature and assisted many other members to achieve public office election at both the state and local level.
In addition to AEE and OHBA, VanNatta has worked on varied and diverse projects, campaigns and accounts, with an extensive range of associations, organizations, businesses and individuals. “Over the years, we’ve had a broad mix of stable and continuing relationships, as well as short-term assignments and high-profile clients,” VanNatta said. Clients reaching beyond Oregon-based firms and associations have included the National Basketball Association, National Football League, and Alamo Rent-A-Car. VanNatta has also been deeply involved in several landmark pieces of legislation, including Senate Bill 100. SB 100 was the enforcement mechanism behind SB 10, which required every Oregon city and county to have a comprehensive land-use plan that met state standards. SB 100 was signed by Governor McCall on May 29, 1973, and created the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). VanNatta is referenced in Brent Walth’s definitive work Tom McCall and the Oregon Story for his participation with a closed-door committee that wrote the final compromise draft of SB 100.
VanNatta also has a long history of community involvement; he was a charter member of the Salem City Club. He was a founding member and past president of the Salem Economic Development Corporation, now known as the Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR), and his business has been a member of the Salem Chamber of Commerce for over 35 years. He is a past director of the Chamber and has chaired its Governmental Affairs Committee three separate times. He is an original member of the Oregon State Capitol Foundation, which strives to identify and preserve the political history of Oregon’s Capitol. He was identified as a “ Salem Business Pioneer” by West Coast Bank and was inducted into the Oregon Housing Hall of Fame in 1999.
Over time, as the next generation assumed more responsibility for the operation of the business, VanNatta turned more attention to his interest in fishing. Staying true to his political roots, VanNatta co-founded Oregon Anglers, the first Political Action Committee in Oregon dedicated to sport fishing. He is cofounder of the Oregon Anglers Research Society (OARS), a research and education entity. A believer in working together with like-minded colleagues, VanNatta is a member of the North American Fishing Club, Oregon Fishing Club, Oregon Steelheaders, Mid-Valley Anglers, Santiam FlyCasters, Tillamook Anglers, Lower Columbia Walleye Club and Nustucca Anglers. In addition to his status as an enthusiastic fisherman, VanNatta has been a dedicated beekeeper for 56 years. In 2003, VanNatta won the Oregon State Fair’s Sweepstakes Award for the best exhibit by a Hobbyist Beekeeper. He is a 40-year member of the American Beekeeping Association and a current long-term member in both the Oregon State and Willamette Valley Beekeeping Associations.
VanNatta aims to remain close to his roots in all areas of life. It is VanNatta’s hope that the Columbia County property where he grew up will endure forever and VanNatta and his brothers established guiding principles for the property in order to insure its sustainability. The property is now shared by eight family members spanning two generations. Some of these members reside on the property and they manage it on a sustained yield basis. VanNatta also cites the need for future generations to remain politically involved enough to prevent government from destroying ownership and management of family-owned natural resources.
Finally, VanNatta believes that the recent acquisition of the South Commercial Professional Building is a significant asset to the company employees and clients, as well as an excellent permanent home for VanNatta Public Relations. In conclusion, VanNatta observes that VPR was founded in 1967, the same year as Intel. He recognizes that although VanNatta Public Relations has not grown at the same rate as Intel (99,900 employees and $39 billion dollars in annual income), it is nevertheless a thriving business, driven by family dedication and employee pride in a job well done.
Building Committee Chair
Nominations Subcommittee Chair
Gary Wilhelms enjoyed a forty-year career with USWEST Communications and its predecessor companies, retiring as Director-Government Relations at the end of 1996. He has over forty years experience in Oregon politics and public affairs including four sessions as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives where he served from Klamath County, seventeen years as a lobbyist, and seven sessions as a key member of Oregon’s legislative staff including two as Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the House. He served as House Minority Leader in 1979. He is a Past President of the Capitol Club, Oregon’s professional lobbyist organization and has also served as a member of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. In 2005-2006, he Co-Chaired the Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature, and in 2012-2013, he Was Chair of the Capitol Master Plan Review Committee. He is an original member of the Oregon State Capitol Foundation upon which he now serves. Wilhelms is recognized as a straight talker and a solution seeker. He and his wife, Gail, have been married for forty-seven years and now reside in Washington County. They have four grown children and four grandchildren.
In 2010, Gary completed his college studies and received his B. S. degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Eastern Oregon University at the age of seventy-two.
OSCF Development Team
Legislative Administration Staff
Special Events Committee Volunteers
History Committee Volunteer