Interview with Joan Davies,
Yachats City Administrator
Yachats City Administrator
TYG: So, what exactly does the city administrator do?
Joan: The city administrator is responsible for all the operations of the city.
TYG: Does the mayor still have influence?
TYG: Oh, I was wondering whether it might have gone down to just a title position.
Joan: Oh no.
TYG: So, new [health] clinic: exciting!
Joan: Yes! As far as I know, everybody is really interested in having that happen.
TYG: I don’t see why anyone would be against it, honestly.
Joan: You never know, but like Barbara mentioned yesterday [at the community meeting], some people are really frightened about losing the provider they’re familiar with. They need to understand that although they need to choose within that organization, they’re not going to be dictated to.
TYG: So, how’s the sidewalk project going?
Joan: As Mayor Brean said yesterday, we’re waiting to hear back from ODOT. Only one company bid on it, and so the city, ODOT, and that company are working together to try and come to a figure that’s manageable. [...]
TYG-Editorial Assistant: Can I rewind a little bit? Where do responsibilities lie between city administrator and mayor and other people in the city? What division of responsibilities is there between the city administrator, which I believe is an appointed position, versus the mayor, which is a volunteer position? What does each position do?
Joan: We’re working on a transition right now to map out what that difference is going to be. In the city where I worked before, the mayor was in a similar position, but the duties were mine; there are approvals only a mayor can make, approvals only a council can make. It’s a pretty extensive division between those three bodies.
TYG-Graphic Design: Where were you before?
Joan: Hines, in eastern Oregon. Bend is 130 miles before you get to Hines. [laughter] [Population is] 1565—different environment, different revenue streams. We have some tourism over there, but we have tons here. Two different things. But anyway, the mayor has been responsible for everything up to this point. So the position they created which I was hired into is to relieve the mayor of those duties which are normally either an administrator’s or a manager’s.
TYG-GD: And those would include what, for example?
Joan: Everything. Supervising personnel, creating and managing a budget, writing resolutions and organizational policies... There’s just hundreds of things. [...] It’s hard for me to describe, because there are so many things!
TYG-GD: What does the mayor continue to do?
Joan: The mayor is the head of the council, and in this city, the mayor votes. In my old city, they did not. But here it’s in the charter, that the mayor votes just like a council member. And this mayor holds offices in at least a couple of different groups, like the League of Oregon Cities—that kind of thing. It’s not like Portland, where you see Charlie Hale in the news all the time, because he’s the head of the police department, and they’re in trouble kind of thing—it’s a different structure. But the mayor is a very vital person in the goals of the city. [...]
TYG-GD: So, you take the burden of paperwork away from the mayor?
Joan: Sure, yes. [...]
TYG-GD: Are you originally from Hines?
Joan: I grew up in that area. I grew up on a cattle ranch in that county. I went to school at Crane, which is a small town 30 miles from Burns and Hines, which are twin cities. I’ve spent a lot of my life there.
TYG-GD: How was it, moving to the coast?
Joan: How was it? Great! [laughs] This is where I’ve always come for vacation. I love the beach, even in the winter time. I don’t care. Moving to the coast is something I’ve looked at for a long time, and this was a perfect opportunity.
TYG-GD: Did you bring a family with you?
Joan: It’s just me!
TYG: It’s so cool to look at all this and see how stuff works! [Note: the interview took place in the City Council Chamber at the Commons.]
Joan: Have you been to city council meetings? Do you have any interest in coming?
TYG: I didn’t know it was open to the public.
Joan: Oh, absolutely!
TYG: Then I do show some interest in coming!
Joan: That would help you see how it functions; of course, you can see how they all sit here. And you can see the interchange with the audience. It’s well-attended here! There’s good public participation. [...]
TYG-EA: What’s your background?
Joan: I was city administrator at Hines for five and a half years; prior to that, I worked for the Department of Human Services as an abuse investigator. A lot of my career has been in “judge” positions—I was also the municipal judge in Hines. Before HS, I was the administrative hearings officer for the Department of Corrections. [...] Before that, I was justice of the peace in Harney County, where I grew up.
TYG: Hmm! So, how did you get a job opportunity here in Yachats?
Joan: The city contacted a professional recruiter in Washington—I call them head-hunters, but I don’t know if they like that term. They send out notices to city administrators, city managers. I’d gotten them before—it was always a joke with me and my secretary. She’d throw one on my desk and say, “Oh, look at this!” All these big money, big city [positions], Seattle, whatever. And we’d laugh, and I’d throw it in the garbage. This time, I didn’t throw it in the garbage.
TYG: Because it was a small town that might actually need something?
Joan: It was a small town, on the coast; it was the first time they’d ever had a city administrator. I’ve done that a lot, built from the bottom up.
TYG-EA: You get to help define your own role.
Joan: Yes! And, you don’t inherit somebody’s mess. You know, you have the computers in place, and the meetings in place, and you can kind of mold it yourself. [...]
TYG-EA: So how has your transition been?
Joan: Well, I worked right up to the last minute at Hines, because it’s budget season and I did not want to leave before my budget was passed. I left that Friday—the last Friday in May—and moved that day. It was Memorial Day weekend, so I didn’t have to work Monday, and I didn’t have to work Tuesday either, because it was the end of the month. So I had a couple of days, and started that Wednesday.
TYG: Well thank you very much for your time! Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?
Joan: No—I appreciate you coming. I admire you very much for what you are doing—it’s excellent.
Interview with Loren Dickinson
TYG: So what exactly is your profession? I know it’s a form of architecture.
Loren: Right now, I’m a retired architect. However, I was a registered architect in Arizona and many western states, including Oregon, California, and that sort of thing. We did all types of architecture, commercial and industrial architecture.
TYG: So not so much residential?
Loren: Early years, yes, I did a number of residential units, some sub-divisions, and individual houses for people.
TYG: How did you get involved in architecture?
Loren: That’s an interesting question, because in my junior year in high school, I was still debating exactly what I wanted to do. A friend of mine said: “Well Loren, I’m going to go into architecture. Do you want to go see what it’s all about?” So I said, “Sure!” And then we went over to the university, and after looking around and seeing what the potentials were, and what the field offered, I decided to do it. So it wasn’t something I had desired to do my whole life, and I understand that you are interested in architecture too!
TYG: Yes, I want to go into architecture and engineering.
TYG-Graphic Design: What was it that specifically piqued your interest, or somehow satisfied these unknown questions you had?
Loren: Actually talking to the professors during what they would classify as an open interview day, bringing the high school students in for discussion so that the high school students could make good decisions.
TYG-GD: Did you talk to any other departments or professors, or just those guys?
Loren: I had one other friend who was an architect. I knew basically what architects did, so I had a general idea of what architecture was and involved.
TYG-GD: What is a good general description of what an architect does?
Loren: That can be a number of things, because architects can basically fill a number of roles, including what is the traditional architect—one who runs a practice, goes out and designs buildings, has them constructed, and watches that. But also architecture can include things like you might be interested in, such as engineering. It can also include government: a lot of architects go into government as building department heads, planners, and that sort of thing. So architects can fill a wide, wide range of different sub-categories of the profession.
TYG: The kind of stuff I’m more interested in is commercial and residential. Industrial is cool; I’d love to be able to make a difference in it. But really, we’ve sort of got the practical way of doing industrial down. I don’t know, of course, since I’ve never done anything like that, but it’s my understanding that it’s sort of like a template that you just change the dimensions of.
Loren: You mean for industrial? Not necessarily, although I’ve done projects of many different types. Every project has its own special set of determinants. As an industrial project, you might end up doing a bottling plant, or a manufacturing facility, or warehouse; but each client comes in and tells you what he wants, and quite often two projects will be vastly different. So even in industrial architecture, as there are in the other types of buildings, there’s a wide, wide range of things. What you’re saying about a template being used might be applicable to types of projects like warehousing—I mean, that’s pretty straightforward. Although, in some of the projects I’ve been involved with over the years, the way products are handled in warehouses is vastly different from what they were 20 years ago. So each particular facet of architecture—industrial, commercial, and residential—has its own set of determinants, its own input, and its own characteristics.
TYG: So, this is something I’ve been wondering for a while: does the architect, on larger projects, take care of everything, down to little pipes?
Loren: That’s where the engineers come in! [laughter]
TYG: Ok, that’s what I was thinking!
Loren: You can’t know everything there is to know about a building, or what goes into a building. So architects and engineers team up—it’s actually a team relationship. An architect wouldn’t know where a piece of conduit with some electrical is supposed to go; he knows basically that he wants an outlet here, and the panel is over there, but he doesn’t know how to get it there, or how to size it. So architectural and engineering concerns work hand in hand.
TYG: In that case I’d definitely prefer to go with the architectural side of things. Pipes just baffle me. [laughter] I like fluids, and I like routing them, but in big buildings and such, when you’re dealing with all these different kinds of systems, it’s just way over my head.
Loren: Those are things that oftentimes you learn in the course of going through an engineering or an architecture school. You learn a little about these things. You come out of school with a basic understanding, but not knowing the details necessarily. Architecture school tends to want to educate architects to be well-rounded people, people who can have a basic understanding of many different facets.
TYG: Like I’m fine if I want to put a piece of furniture somewhere that directly interacts with the wall, like a piping thing: dishwashers, dryers. I can do that. But getting it there, through all this stuff...
Loren: That’s a never-ending challenge: how to put the entire project together so that it works! [laughter]
TYG-GD: Where did you go to school?
Loren: I went to school at Arizona State University. At that time, it was a five-year program for a Bachelor of Architecture. Now they have several programs that can go beyond that—as do many universities. They have programs that go on to a Master’s, and even a Doctorate—that’s when people tend to specialize.
TYG-GD: What would a Doctor in Architecture do besides teach?
Loren: You could apply it to solar architecture, or green architecture where projects are built to respect the environment. These are just two of many different branches that can be afforded by an upper degree.
TYG: Personally, I’m not interested in being like Frank Lloyd Wright, for example. [...] Those houses require so much maintenance.
TYG: They wouldn’t even be practical for anybody who isn’t super-rich! I mean, the waterfall house isn’t even very big!
Loren: Yes, it is small, and over the years it has required a lot of maintenance. And, in fact, reconstruction at one or two points where they actually took apart major elements of the house, structural elements, and repaired them.
TYG: If I remember correctly—I’m not sure about this—but I think that his original struts were really weak, like it kept on trying to fall over the edge.
Loren: That’s why they call it Falling Water! [laughter all around]
TYG: I like some of the stuff that he does, but that house—that’s showing off.
Loren: Well, he designed it probably as much for himself as he did for the client. The client probably wanted something special, and he used that as his guidelines to actually design the house. He was a very creative architect, and had many good qualities, but one of the qualities that he did not have was the detail and the follow-up. He was good at conceptual architecture, but he oftentimes ignored the details, and that resulted in more maintenance being required.
TYG: I’m not so into in curves, but recently I was just playing around and I found a really cool roof design by accident. I was building a peaked roof (in Minecraft) and was experimenting, and ended up with a three-tiered roof that I thought looked really good. I just wonder if that would be practical.
Loren: Well, it’s hard for me to exactly picture what you did, but let’s say that virtually anything can be practical or made to work if you examine it long enough and in depth enough to make sure that all of the many facets are understood.
TYG: So how did you move to Yachats, or get involved with Yachats, rather?
Loren: Well we have a couple of friends who live up on Horizon Hill, that are retired professors from Arizona State University—not involved with architecture, they’re psychologists. Back in the 90’s, they said “Hey, why don’t you come to Yachats? We’ve got a house on the hill, come to Yachats for a couple of weeks.” We did, we brought our kids, the kids loved it. So since the mid-90’s, we would come back every other year. My wife and I ended up buying a piece of property in Quiet Water many years ago—I want to say 16 years ago. Then in 2006-2007, we decided “Well, gosh, let’s just build there and use it as a second home, and go there in the summers!” So we had the house built, and until last year, we would come every summer and spend six to seven weeks here. A year and a half ago, we decided we were going to move here full-time, and we did in March.
TYG-GD: Did you like the winter?
Loren: Absolutely! We loved it! [laughter] After coming from a desert environment, very dry, it’s wonderful to be wet and cool.
TYG-GD: I heard they were calling for temperatures [in Arizona] in the 120’s, and I have to say, I just can’t imagine living in that kind of heat!
TYG: You wouldn’t go out.
Loren: You don’t. In that environment, in the summer, you basically go from your house to your car, your air-conditioned car, to your workplace or the market or wherever you’re going, go into that air-conditioned building, get back in your car, go home back into your air-conditioned house.
TYG-GD: Yes, but what about the road workers, and all the people who work on roofs, and such?
Loren: A lot of the work that is accomplished in desert environments, like the Phoenix area, in the summer, is done early in the morning, when it’s slightly cooler. But Arizona, the Phoenix area, is very much a heat sink right now. There is so much concrete, and so much pavement, that it doesn’t even cool off in the evenings like it used to when I was a young person.
TYG-GD: So what can architecture do for that problem?
Loren: Incorporate more shade and shadow. As an example, a market that has a covered walkway from the parking area to the store—which is starting to become a requirement in many areas now, which is a very good thing for the environment, or covered parking spaces.
TYG-GD: What are they covered with?
Loren: Usually the ones that we saw in recent years in the Phoenix area were canvas. So you saw the sculptured canvas things that looked like sideways sails. They’re light and airy—they allow some light to come through, but they provide shade and keep your car cool.
TYG: So how much does shadow actually do? I’ve done some basic thermodynamical work—not quantitative, though. But qualitatively, does shadow actually help it? I feel like if it’s shadow, shouldn’t the warm air just rush right in?
Loren: As you know, the sun heats everything it falls on. As I mentioned earlier about the heat sink, where concrete is getting hot and asphalt is getting hot: if you put shading above it, you keep that surface from becoming hotter. The shading element helps keep it cool—it’s like planting grass or using a non-heat absorbent surface.
TYG-GD: The water situation there is pretty dire too, correct?
Loren: Very dire. And like many areas of the southwest—California, New Mexico—they’re going to have some immense water problems for many years, in my opinion.
TYG-GD: So the canvas shading, versus natural cooling with the trees and grass, takes care of it—it doesn’t require any extra water usage, so that’s good.
Loren: That’s correct. Trees though are being encouraged. Many of the trees that they’re using now are what we would classify as drought-tolerant. So once they’re established, they provide the shade, but yet don’t require considerable watering. They do tend to keep the ground cooler, or houses cooler; the shade falls on the house.
TYG-GD: Is there a water table underneath [Phoenix]?
Loren: In the Phoenix area there was a water table, but it has been dropping at an alarming rate in the last ten years. It’s now at several hundred feet, and it’s getting worse every year. A lot of the water that’s drawn off is not only for people, but for agriculture. Agriculture in the area, for many years, was reliant on irrigation. In some instances in recent years, they’ve learned to do drip irrigation, which helps retain the water and make better use of the water and not use as much of it.
TYG: Irrigation works pretty well in cooler climates, in temperate climates; but in areas in the South it just evaporates so fast.
TYG-GD: I know that every time we drive to southern California, we see these huge waterways—of course, they’re completely dry now. I tend to think, “Gosh, the amount of water you’re losing, at the same time you’re trying to ferry it from one place to another, is just kind of crazy!”
TYG: Why not put the pipes underground?
Loren: When we came and went from Phoenix to Yachats for many years, we drove up the agricultural area from Southern California, and these large irrigation canals contain an awful lot of water. I would agree that moving a lot of water over great distances in those canals probably resulted in a lot of loss of the water itself.
TYG: [...] Well, I think that recently, buildings have fallen into a sort of a stereotype for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Industrial has that stereotype of really cool roof design [sawtooth style]—that’s an awesome roof design. Commercial buildings are usually flat-topped, and residential buildings sort of have a usual peak roof. I’d like to break that stereotype. I think that roof design in particular is an important element; more important than a lot of other things. The rest of it can stay the same, but the roof design is what people see—that’s what my opinion is, anyway. That’s where a lot of the character of the building is derived from. I’d like to have new styles of roofs—not flat styles so much, but the industrial design is very practical, and I think that should be used on residential homes to some degree, and commercial. Flat roofs, I’ve never particularly been fond of. I think they can be interesting; on big skyscrapers they make sense, but on other things they don’t really make much sense.
Loren: Oftentimes it’s a regional preference for a particular style or feeling that you want to put into the architecture, but I agree that the roof is an extremely important part of architecture because it creates a roof line for the city—it’s a character within the city. As an example, Portland has wonderful old houses, and there isn’t a flat roof hardly in sight; beautiful, nice, pitched roofs and it gives the city a particular character. On the other hand, many areas of the southwest such as Phoenix, Los Angeles: the flat roof becomes the character of the city. So it is an important part of the design of a project.
TYG: Some of the things I’ve thought about are terraced roofs, where you have a flat top, then a drop of a meter or two, then another terrace. This would be particularly useful on corner buildings, where the roof goes two ways. Also, I like large eaves and overhangs—I just think they look really good. Also, the roofs meshing into each other—I like them to have more variation and be more distinct. And I’m very fond of using attics. I feel that attics used to be quite a thing, but now they’ve become underrated; so the roof area goes unused or is just a flat, insulation space. I feel that there’s a lot more that can be done with these peak roofs.
Loren: They can be made into some really nice, livable areas! Not just storage areas, but actually livable areas. I recall one bed and breakfast that my wife stayed in, in northern Oregon. Our section of the house was in an attic! It was very narrow, and the head-room was low in certain areas, but it was quite quaint, and we just absolutely loved it.
TYG-GD: When did you start doing watercolor? Because you do architectural-themed watercolors a lot.
Loren: I started watercolor actually as a way to relax in college. A professor who was a very, very well-known watercolor artist in addition to being an architect, he offered a watercolor class. I did take that more for relaxation; and then, for many years during my career, kind of let it slide and didn’t pick it up and do it because I was too busy doing business and doing architecture. And then, I want to say maybe eight years ago, I decided, because I’m retired, I’ll pick it up again and see what happens. I’ve been playing with it a little bit ever since. Part of the thing that we used to do is use watercolor to represent our buildings, i.e., do a rendering of a building.
TYG-GD: What do they do now?
Loren: Nowadays, it’s all on computer, with CAD programs, and rendering programs that are added on to the CAD programs.
TYG: I love CAD programs, honestly. I’ve got a really good one called Google Sketch-Up.
Loren: I love Google Sketch-Up! [laughter] Actually, we used to use it; it’s a fairly nice program for doing something quickly that you can present to a client.
TYG: I use the free one.
Loren: I do too! [laughter] Google Sketch-Up is a great little program to start out with. [...]
TYG: Were you born in Arizona?
Loren: I was born in a little town called Flagstaff, Arizona, which is in the mountains. I left there when I was about two years old, and my greatest recollection of being in Flagstaff is being dressed up in so many layers of clothes that I couldn’t put my arms down, and it being so cold. When we moved away from there we went directly to the Phoenix area, and I’ve lived there most of my life.
TYG: What a change!
Loren: Oh, it was very definitely a change. From the cold to the hot. But my wife and I have spent some time in Hawaii.
TYG-GD: Do you have any architecture projects going on now?
Loren: I’ve tried to stay pretty much retired. I’ve helped the city out on a couple of minor, minor things; I’ve helped some friends do some conceptual work for some houses; but as far as designing and carrying an entire project through, I pretty much have had my fill of that, and quite frankly, I’m enjoying my retirement.
TYG-GD: One last question, maybe—what is your most favorite project that you can remember?
Loren: I can honestly say that I have enjoyed most of the projects that I’ve done. I’ve won a number of awards. The ones that I seem to go back and enjoy the most are the ones connected with aviation. I did a number of projects in various airports in the southwest, in particular Scottsdale Airport, related to large, corporate aircraft; corporate centers that just happened to have a large aircraft as part of their corporate means of transportation. I designed a number of buildings that housed a corporation and then a hangar building, say behind a facility, that might have hangared their jet. Those have, for a number of years, been very satisfying to me.
TYG-GD: Can you give a sense of why they’re satisfying?
Loren: Well years ago I had a pilot’s license, and I flew routinely between projects located in, say, California and northern Arizona. I have not flown in a number of years, but I did enjoy being a pilot. Once you get bitten by the bug of being a pilot, I tended to like the aviation projects, staying involved with aviation.
TYG: Well, thank you so much for your time!
Loren: Oh, it’s been a pleasure! Hopefully you do a lot of research and find out exactly what you want to do and enjoy going to the university!