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EWEB Hosts Dinner to Appreciate Customers of the McKenzie River Valley

June 06, 2024 Hanna Ashcraft, EWEB Communications

Mckenzie Valley Community members shared a meal and their thoughts with EWEB Commissioners and Executive Team

EWEB hosted a customer appreciation dinner at the Walterville Community Center on Thursday, May 23, in place of its yearly upriver Board meeting. The event allowed customers, EWEB Commissioners, and staff to share a meal and openly discuss topics most relevant to the McKenzie Valley community. 

Instead of the typical Board meeting structure, where community members are limited to three minutes of speaking time, EWEB tested a new format to elicit deeper conversation. The new format included an open house to speak to EWEB subject matter experts, facilitated discussions during dinner, and more time afterward to follow up with specific people. All changes to the meeting structure were meant to support this year’s theme of improving communications with the community. 

Customers were at tables with EWEB Commissioners and Executive Team members based on their pre-specified interests. EWEB Communications Specialist Adam Spencer, who used to live in the McKenzie Valley, introduced each topic of conversation. The topics ranged from threats to the McKenzie River, to EWEB’s ice storm response and how to share and receive updates during power outages, to navigating change when learning more about decommissioning the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project. 

During the dinner, low-key conversation filled the homey, wood-paneled community center. Participants raised questions and shared ideas. Despite the serious topics, laughter could be heard. Notetakers at each table jotted down key points, which they then reported to the entire group at the end of the dinner and brought back to EWEB for further consideration. 

Rainbow Water District Superintendent Jamie Porter, who is an EWEB customer in the McKenzie Valley, described what it was like to attend the event. 

EWEB welcomed McKenzie Valley Customers to an appreciation dinner at the Walterville Community Center EWEB welcomed McKenzie Valley Customers to an appreciation dinner at the Walterville Community Center

“Responding to and recovering from the January winter storm was a huge challenge for EWEB. Choosing to decommission the Leaburg Dam was a difficult and controversial decision for EWEB. I respect the amount of work that EWEB put into hosting the upriver meeting,” Porter said. “They created a new format that allowed EWEB representatives to meet with upriver customers on a more personal level to better understand how people have been and will be impacted by these big events.” 

“I walked away from the meeting appreciating the opportunity I had to learn new information, to share my own concerns, and to hear the perspective of others in my community,” Porter added. 

EWEB Commissioners and staff responded positively to the new format. 

“I appreciated getting to talk with people one-on-one in a way that I couldn’t at some of our regular meetings,” EWEB Commissioner Mindy Schlossberg said at the June Board Meeting. “It was nice to be able to sit down with them and listen to what they had to say. Overall, it felt much more respectful.” 

EWEB will utilize the appreciation dinner format again with slight adjustments to improve the event. 

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