Staff changes occur at N.E. Oregon Economic Development District

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer November 13, 2013 08:20 am

ENTERPRISE — There are a couple of new faces this month at the tri-county Northeast Oregon Economic Development District’s office in Enterprise.

Jeff Moss left the district last month to pursue a career in ministry, leaving a position he had filled for three years. To suit both the needs of the program and its two new hires, the job was split in two.

Erin Donovan is serving as the fiscal officer, managing the district’s 60 revolving loan funds in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties.

Donovan is not entirely new to the district; she was previously employed through a training program called Experience Works. Participants are charged with finding a nonprofit that needs help and Experience Works pays the wages. She said she worked with the program for just under a year.

“The district had a need for someone to come in and manage the interloan data,” Donovan said. She said she entered decades of data from paper records into a software program called Down Home Loan, which manages and keeps track of the district’s loan funds.

The training paid off and lined Donovan up perfectly for the fiscal position when it became available.

 “The training position has given her a huge leg up in taking this new job, which includes working with that specific loan software on which she trained processing loan payments,” Executive Director Lisa Dawson said.

Dawson said for many years the district used a paper based system. Records reaching back to 1987 have been entered into the data base, providing information at their fingertips.

Donovan said she enjoyed piecing the history together. “I had never been in a position where I could get a story out of numbers.”

Sara Miller, the district’s development specialist, said of going over 26 years of data, “You got to be a detective.”

Donovan said of the job, which she also oversees payroll and paying the district’s bills, “There is a little bit of learning curve, when I’m not pulling my hair out.”

When she’s not crunching numbers and playing detective, Donovan, who has a degree in art, has time to “paint with food” and works in catering.

Kristy Athens is new to Wallowa County and is serving as the district’s outreach specialist.

Athens moved to Wallowa County shortly after her husband, Mike Midlo, started his job with Fishtrap in August. After wrapping up her job with Oregon Humanities, she enrolled in a low residency graduate program with Marylhurst University and was looking for a part-time job to supplement her studies.

“I was expecting to work at a gas station or a cafe. I feel so lucky that this job came up in my skill set — and it dovetails with my graduate work,” said Athens.

Athens said her role with the Oregon Book Award program gave her an opportunity to explore Oregon as did her husband’s job as an “Art Beat” producer with Oregon Public Broadcasting, but they rarely traveled together. She said when they returned from their travels, they would compare notes and plan where they wanted to revisit. Wallowa County was high on the list.

The Minnesota couple moved to Portland 1995. In 2003, they tried their hand at rural life in Klickitat County, Wash., where they owned a small farm. The economic downturn forced them to sell their property and move back to Portland where Athens wrote a book, “Get Your Pitchfork On!” which detailed their country-living experience.

Athens said, “What brings us out here is a love of open lands, a love of being around people who are completely capable.”