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Tom Salzer leaves conservation district job in Clackamas County for Washington state

Tom Salzer, who led the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) since 2010, last month began a new position as the executive director of the Washington Association of Conservation Districts.

Among recent accomplishments, CSWCD's new permanent home — the $5.5 million Conservation Resource Center in Beavercreek — was completed in December so the district is no longer having to rent space on Molalla Avenue in Oregon City.

COURTESY PHOTO - Cory Owens, Tom Salzer and Kim Galland were among the dozens of attendees for Salzer's farewell party from leading the Clackamas conservation district in December.CSWCD recently acquired the Eagle Fern Community Forest, consisting of 319 acres near Estacada to provide recreation/wildlife habitat, protect water quality and produce revenue for conservation programs through selective logging. Under Salzer's leadership, CSWCD established the first countywide septic loan program in Oregon with DEQ funding.

"We also invest in those closest to the soil and water we protect by providing partnership support grants for watershed councils and farmers markets within Clackamas County," Salzer said.

COURTESY PHOTO - Tom Salzer in front of the old Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District office site in Oregon City.Salzer, who managed 16 staff members and oversaw an annual budget of over $2.4 million, was slow to lay claim to any achievements made under his nine years of management.

"Our staff is incredible," he said, "driven by a real desire to do good. It's who we are — good hearts, good minds, good values."

Roger Fantz, a member of the CSWCD Board elected at large, said Salzer's "thorough preparation and informative briefing memos never failed to impress" and had a positive effect on district efficiency. Jeff Becker, chair of the CSWCD Board, said the district was fortunate that Salzer chose conservation as a career field because he would have been successful as a manager in any path he chose.

"And that boils down to his people skills," Becker said. "He looks at decisions not just for their outcome but for how they affect the people involved. Leading and juggling the needs of multiple lives is indeed a skill. I don't think Tom would have made this career move if he thought in any way it would harm the district. Like a parent saying, 'time to fly on your own' to a child."

Salzer managed the Ferry Conservation District in Washington state from 1992 to 1997. Then he joined the Washington State Conservation Commission to manage dairy-farm waste for the next 13 years before he was hired in Clackamas County.

Washington Association of Conservation Districts President Jeanette Dorner said Salzer is the "absolute right person as the new executive director.

"He is truly committed to the success of conservation districts," Dorner said. "He has the experience and record of success that he can draw from to help others. He is well respected by many. I have not found one person who has had something negative to say about him and, instead, I find folks across our state who are grateful to him for the help he has provided them."

Becker said the CSWCD Board's initial recruitment for replacement manager candidates last month resulted in few applicants and there is no one whom the search committee wanted to advance to a vote of the full board at this point.

"We have people in place to keep the ship afloat for a good long while, so there's no crisis," Becker said.

He is hoping that another call for manager candidates going out this month will entice more qualified applicants.

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