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Retiring Woodland commissioner embodied community service

WOODLAND — When Dale Boon took his seat on the Port of Woodland Commission in 1998, the port was much smaller.

Jump ahead 24 years. The port steadily is growing, developing land Boon voted to purchase in the early 2000s. And now, Boon said, it is time for him to retire and attend fewer meetings.

“I was in the volunteer fire department for 25 years. I’ve been on various other boards, dairy boards, for 20-some years and this is now 24 years for the port,” Boon said. “I’m 72 and it’s time to step down and take it easy.”

Boon was elected in 1997 and took the District 1 seat in January 1998. In addition to being a port commissioner, he owned and operated a dairy farm in Woodland before selling it in the 1990s. He later became the manager for Cowlitz County Diking District 2 until his retirement from there in 2016.

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Rob Rich ran unopposed for Boon’s seat in the Nov. 2 election and officially will take the role in January 2022.

During his tenure, Boon oversaw the Schurman Way Industrial Park and Down River Drive Industrial Park developments in the late ’90s and early 2000s, along with the more recent developments of Centennial and Rose Way Industrial Parks.

“We bought a lot of property in the early part of it, in the early 2000s, several plots of ground that were at a very reasonable price at that time,” he said. “It was a normal price at that time, but that’s 25% of what we would have to pay now, so it was a good thing to buy property at that time. Now we’re in a position now to go on and put on buildings and develop those properties.”

During the economic downturn in 2008, he also was one of the founding members of the development of the Woodland Quality Community Coalition, which brought together the city, port and school district to work in coordination with each other.

Boon also was instrumental in the preservation of the Guild Klady Centennial Orchard and for working with Boy Scouts Troup 531 for its dedication in 2016.

His favorite program he helped create is the Capital Community Development Project, which redistributed some of the port’s profits from selling dredged sand to the community.

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“I always wanted to give something back to the community,” Boon said, which is how the project got started about a decade ago.

Civic organizations could apply for money for their projects, and the project gave money to the historical society, the Lelooska Foundation, the city of Woodland, the high school and middle school robotics classes, and several others.

“That’s been very, very good,” Boon said. “We’d put $20,000 or $30,000 a year into the fund. We did that for four years, but right now there’s no sand available to sell, so we don’t have the program right now, but hopefully they will reinstate that later on.”

Boon also hopes to keep watching the port grow and develop, especially at Martin’s Bar and Austin Point.

David Ripp, chief executive officer at the Port of Camas-Washougal, worked with Boon for about a decade when Ripp was the executive director at the Port of Woodland from 1994 to 2007. But his relationship with Boon goes back farther than that, he said.

“I’ve known Dale almost my entire life,” Ripp said, as Boon often would be in Ripp’s father’s welding shop.

Ripp recalled working with Boon on a number of development projects, from business parks to streets.

“I’ve always had a fond respect for him,” Ripp said. “We always worked well together and we still keep in touch.”

“Forward thinking” is what comes to Ripp’s mind when asked to describe Boon.

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“He’s always wanting to look at how the port can create jobs, diversify the employment base, and he’s always been engaged in what’s going on in the community and active in the community,” Ripp said.

Boon said that’s exactly why he kept running for the seat: to stay involved and serve his community.

“It’s always fun to know about prospective businesses coming to town and help them develop,” he said. “And make sure they’ve got family wage jobs and are good businesses that are good for the community.”

Fellow commissioner Paul Cline said looking back at Boon’s time in office, “community minded” was the overall impression he got of Boon’s service.

The pair served on the commission together since 2008, and Cline said he valued the different abilities each commissioner brought to the table.

“Through him I’ve learned the importance of being ready for meetings and staying connected to our sister ports,” Cline said.

Boon said his advice to incoming commissioners would be to listen and stay connected, and when voting, to keep in mind commissioners need to represent the whole community, not just themselves.

“Listen to your taxpayers, your constituents,” he said. “Listen to what they have to say and discuss with them at any time any project you’ve got going. A lot of people know me in the community and if they wanted to talk about port business, I’d sit down with them and talk.”

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In other business, the commission approved a payment of $61,500 to the Cowlitz Fire District #5 under its standby agreement and heard that its marketplace and small cruise ship dock projects are both on track.

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