19-year old Erik Van de Water serving as new Hidden Springs NA president

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - In the midst of a gap year between schools, Erik Van de Water jumped at the opportunity to step in as president of the Hidden Springs Neighborhood Association.The word “president” is not often associated with the description of a 19-year old.

President of a fraternity, perhaps, or the school debate club, but rare is the teenager who wishes to take on the responsibilities of a neighborhood association president.

Yet for Erik Van de Water, the decision to step up as Hidden Springs neighborhood association president was a no-brainer. Sitting president Alex Kachirisky stepped down in February, and Van de Water — who is currently taking a gap year from school — saw a void to fill.

“I’ve been with the neighborhood association for about four years,” Van de Water said. “I decided that, hey, no one’s stepping up to take the position, so I should.”

The Van de Water family moved to West Linn from Los Angeles when Erik was in middle school. When the Van de Waters decided to get involved with the Hidden Springs neighborhood association, they brought Erik along, and he has spent the past four years working on projects like West Linn Clean Up Day.

“I decided to clean up the Palamino Loop Trail, which has been infested by invasive ivy,” Van de Water said. “I submitted an application to the city, went door-to-door and asked for help from neighbors for West Linn Clean Up Day, went to the neighborhood association and asked for help there. I completely led those events on my own.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Van de Water first got involved with the neighborhood association when he was in middle school, helping operate the video camera at meetings.

After graduating from West Linn High School, Van de Water spent a year at Oregon State University before deciding to take time off and apply to the University of Pennsylvania. With a future business degree in mind, he has spent most of his time exploring entrepreneurial opportunities, but the opportunity to serve as neighborhood association president — at least temporarily — was too good to pass up.

“I like the responsibility,” Van de Water said. “I like knowing that I can make my neighbors’ lives at least a little better by competently executing my role. And I like working with people from the city — people from the city are really courteous, really nice on the whole.”

Van de Water’s term as president comes at a time when city officials are re-evaluating the role of neighborhood associations in a digital world that allows for instant communication between residents and city hall. At a joint meeting between the city council and planning commission Jan. 6, City Councilor Mike Jones said neighborhood associations may have become outdated.

Van de Water, for his part, believes neighborhood associations are still a valuable resource.

“The general perspective is that they are conduits for information in a hyper-local sense,” Van de Water said. “This is what’s going on in your neighborhood that impacts these things — I think that’s a fairly accurate description.

“Certainly they serve the purpose to let people elect someone to speak for them at a local level.”

That’s not to say the process can’t be improved. One initiative Van de Water is targeting would combine the Hidden Springs and Rosemont Summit neighborhood associations into one body — an idea that was originally pushed forward by Kachirisky and former Rosemont Summit president Dean Suhr.

“There’s definitely possible benefits in terms of the number of people who are attending meetings, and getting involved with the neighborhood association,” Van de Water said.

Even discounting his young age, Van de Water has a tough act to follow. Kachirisky, after all, recently took home the city’s first Robert Moore Award, which was designed to “recognize individuals who contribute to the quality of life in the community without reward or recognition.”

“He’s certainly offered to help out if and when I ever need help,” Van de Water said. “He’s given me some great advice on starting the role, and given me all the info I need.”

Kachirisky said Van de Water was a natural fit as president.

“Erik is an amazing young man,” Kachirisky said. “He has some big entrepreneurial aspirations and I’m amazed to see such drive and maturity in a person his age. When he decided to throw his hat in the ring to be Hidden Springs president I was happy to hear it.”

And as for questions about Van de Water’s age?

“I think with how I’ve acted before, I kind of set an expectation,” Van de Water said. “I’m just glad to help.”

By Patrick Malee
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