Riley Baker started as interim director in January, hired on for permanent role

COURTESY PHOTO: CASEY GARRETT - Riley Baker sits in his office at his new job as director of general services for Columbia County.Columbia County has hired a new director of general services.

Riley Baker was hired by the county commissioners for the permanent role, effective April 1. Baker was already doing the job on an interim basis, having taken over in January after Casey Garrett, the previous director of general services, was sworn in as a county commissioner.

As director of general services, which includes county facilities and forests, parks and recreation, Baker will oversee regular maintenance and major upgrades to county properties.

Baker will supervise renovations of the former John Gumm School in St. Helens, which the county purchased earlier this month to provide more office space for county employees and more meeting space for county employees and the public.

Baker says he is looking forward to the continued development of the Crown Zellerbach Trail. In recent years, the county has made trail improvements like adding more amenities at trailheads and adding informational kiosks throughout the trail.

Baker also said he is looking forward to "renewing the process with the city of St. Helens for setting up Salmonberry Lake as a county park."

The county and city have been working to develop motorized and non-motorized trail systems on the 2,400-acre property owned by the city.

Another project Baker is excited about is adding RV and tent camping at Prescott Beach. The site, near Rainier, is "one of Columbia County's finest fishing and windsurfing sites," the county website boasts. The recreation area is currently only available for day-use.

The county's parks and recreation advisory committee is leading updates to Columbia County's parks master plan, which sets out the priorities and trajectory for developing recreation opportunities in the county. The master plan was last updated in 2007.

Baker said that he took the position with Columbia County because he wanted a job that was close to home and let him engage with his neighbors.

Baker grew up in Scappoose and started working as a plumber when he was 18. At age 30, he went back to school for a degree in electrical engineering, and then began working for Portland General Electric.

"In short, PGE treated me great, but I didn't like sitting at a desk for eight hours per day or driving back and forth from Portland. It just didn't feel like home," Baker said.

"Being born and raised in Scappoose, I missed being involved in the community where I live," he said. "I am really excited about this opportunity, as a public servant (coming from the private sector), to give Columbia County residents the service they deserve and expect."

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