March marks National Women's History Month, and it dawned on me as Westside Economic Alliance's (WEA) president that we have a woman who has made an impact on the Westside that will last for generations to come.
Her name is Betty Atteberry, and she was WEA's first executive director. Actually, she started as the executive director of the Sunset Corridor Association in 1985, which would merge 13 years later in 1998 with the Tualatin Valley Economic Development Corporation to form what is now WEA.
Betty is a native Oregonian and a graduate of Newberg High School — Go, Tigers! She did this work as a wife and a mother. Her two children were teenagers when she started Sunset Corridor Association.
She started in politics while working on a campaign for a friend (Mike Ragsdale), who was running for a seat in the Oregon Legislature. She would go on to lead several campaigns, including Washington County's Road Bond program, which we now know as the MSTIP (Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program) — it's unique and envied by other county governments in this region.
As a tribute for all of her work to improve the transportation network on the Westside, current WEA Board member and Transportation Committee Chairman Frank Angelo nominated Betty for a recognition plaque, which is proudly displayed on a boulder at the Willow Creek Transit Center next to the Westside MAX light rail line.
After she retired from WEA in 2004, Betty transitioned from being a representative of private sector interests into working with the public sector. She began the nonprofit Portland Regional Partners for Economic Development, which consisted of economic development professionals from different governing bodies around the Portland region, charged with boosting the economic health of the area. This also began the economic development district that brought in federal dollars to the Portland region. Portland Regional Partners for Economic Development and the economic development district would later become known as Greater Portland Inc, a group that markets the Portland region as a business locale.
Betty was asked if anything ever scared her or if she worried she couldn't get a job done. Her response was she just knew she had to dive into the details and get the work done. As WEA's executive director, Betty was often the only woman in a group of businessmen. She did serve on the WEA Board of Directors with Dianna Daggett, who was with Intel at the time and Lois Ditmars of Peterkort Towne Square. Betty said she appreciated the support of the Board — especially Ball Janik's Jack Orchard. She said she found it key to listen and take the advice of other business people on how to run an organization. Betty said, "The group I was working with was pretty respectful of the work I was doing."
The former executive director is held in high esteem even in her retirement. A few years ago WEA asked Betty to sit on its Board of Directors again as a member emeritus. She provides an institutional knowledge to the Alliance. When asked about Betty's role in the economic development of Washington County, Jack Orchard said, "With her energy and organizational skills, Betty was at the forefront of building the economic development stability and vitality of the county. I have known and worked with Betty for more than 30 years, and I am honored to continue to serve with her on the WEA Board of Directors."
In asking her what advice she'd give the Alliance moving forward, she said WEA's goal should continue to be to build the economic vitality of Washington County and to continue the collaborative work of both the public and private sectors.
Her advice to young women coming into the workplace or business world is to be patient as you learn things and work with people in a good manner, even if it's someone you totally disagree with, and the work you do isn't going to convince them. Don't take it personally, but keep working at it.
This sounds like good advice for just about anyone of us.
Brantley Dettmer is the Chief Operating Officer of Kaiser Permanente's Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, and board president of the WEA. Learn more about the WEA at: westsidealliance.org
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