March 15, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN The list of progress during 2000 in Elgin is long a nearly complete RV park, a just- opening industrial park, new signage around town, new businesses, a revitalized Christmas parade and increasing use of the visitors center.

The speakers at Thursdays annual Elgin Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet noted both the progress and the possibilities ahead, and then recognized Dale Witherspoon as Man of the Year, Shirley Peters as Woman of the Year, and Denise Ludwig as Young Woman of the Year.

In the futuristic attitude of the evening, Chamber President Karen Chadwick introduced guest speaker, Bob Nelson of the Oregon Employment Division, as the operator of Coves Nelson Vineyards.

Nothings planted out there yet, but its in the works, Chadwick said.

With a flourish of a would-be magician, Nelson told his audience that while he isnt clairvoyant, he is a crystal-gazer and whipped the cover off his Wal-Mart special crystal ball.

Nelson shared predictions of the future hed learned from well-respected lecturers Drs. Tom Jones of Clackamas Community College and Frank Odasz from Montana, an Internet guru.

The future, Nelson said, will have both good and bad in it, but much of what happens will be up to the choices people and communities make.

Among the bad, Nelson warned, are expectations of doubling or tripling unemployment in the Western states in the next decade.

Countering that trend will be opportunities for those willing to learn and change.

While human knowledge is doubling about every four years, Nelson said, by 2010 it is expected to double every 37 days. As an example, he noted that 80 percent of todays medical knowledge has been garnered in the past five years.

Business is changing.

Quoting Jones, Nelson said that be 2009, 99 percent of what we know as money will be some type of electronic unit credit transfers; that by 2018, half of all goods and services will be sold via the Internet; and that owning products will be giving way to leasing, including items such as carpets and home furnishings.

We can accept or resist the choices ahead, Nelson said, adding that for himself he plans to take a bit of both.

Life, and the future, Nelson concluded, theyre just choices.

Harlan Scott, last years Man of the Year, added that he already had a smart pickup, since it seemed to drive him to his ranch every day without his awareness.

Introducing Dale Witherspoon, Scott said that Witherspoon was raised on Cricket Flat, attended Elgin schools and now works for Boise Cascade.

As a volunteer, Witherspoons activities range from the Friends of the Community Center and the centers annual auction, to maintenance of the Little League playing fields and coaching, fund-raising, and caring for the soccer team and its bus.

I enjoy doing the work, and I enjoy the kids, Witherspoon said, chuckling as he added that the field he cares for isnt Boise Cascades, but thats my field.

On a serious note, Witherspoon looked over his audience and said that it isnt who the children are, but how they are cared for by adults and volunteers.

The kids, theyre all-important.

Introducing Woman of the Year Shirley Peters, presenter Sharon Glasson of the Elgin Womens Service Club listed her involvement and efforts with the Methodist Church, the Chamber of Commerce, the new museum, the Opera House and other groups.

Accepting the award, Peters admitted that Im kind of speechless, and just added her thanks.

The audience laughed at Denise Ludwigs gasp as she realized she was the Young Woman of the Year winner.

I thought I was coming tonight as a date for my sister, the Elgin School Districts deputy clerk said.

Glasson said that Ludwig earned her award for her involvement with 4-H, dance programs, work with the booster club, and other activities.

All Ludwig could add was a simple, I love Elgin.

The Chamber of Commerce also presented Peters with a plaque for her service as past president.

The banquet was catered by Wicks Cold Storage, with Wick Churchill preparing the meal. The Elgin High School wrestling team and other students were the servers. An estimated 75 people attended the banquet.