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VIP: Robb Van Cleave, Mayor of The Dalles

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Archives - March 2007
Thursday, March 01, 2007

RobbVanCleave.jpg Photo by Bryan Bloebaum

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Robb Van Cleave, Mayor of The Dalles

This photograph of Robb Van Cleave is not accurate. For sure, this six-term mayor is standing on ground that means everything to him. This river town is his history, his home, and the city he has served since being elected in 1998.

But Van Cleave will tell you that a picture of him standing alone doesn’t tell the right story. So imagine penciled in behind him his compadres, The Dalles Community Outreach Team. The team was born about the time Van Cleave, who is 47, became mayor and without it, he says the progress of the past few years would not have happened. Visit his office, and he quickly and proudly displays the award the group received last year from the Oregon Economic Development Association for outstanding teamwork.

It was this team that weathered the aluminum plant closing, crops failing and raging unemployment, and helped turn The Dalles around. “We didn’t get any breaks. We worked our hind ends off,” says the energetic Van Cleave. “We didn’t whine and nobody gave up. Nobody gives up.”

Now Google’s here, Columbia Gorge Community College has begun a $26 million expansion, the riverfront is transforming, there’s a new veterans’ memorial, and a fiber-optic loop surrounds the city. The work is not done, but Van Cleave says this is his last term. He’s a dad of three who could spend more time with the family, plus he serves on the SAIF board, and has his day job as the community college’s executive director of human resources and strategic planning.

So, the city’s longest-serving mayor really plans to step back? He fudges the question a bit, then admits: “I’m always more comfortable driving the bus than riding on the bus.”

— Robin Doussard


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