A Quiet Leader

Scott Swanson

Mike Reynolds isn’t one to impulsively grab the mic or the spotlight.

But without hooplah he’s accomplished a lot over the years – chaired the Sweet Home School Board; maintained the mapping of 100,000 acres of property for Cascade Timber Consulting, Inc., where he’s worked his entire professional career; served on the church board at Hillside Fellowship and helped people with computer issues.

As emcee Don Knight said when presenting Reynolds with the Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Service Award earlier this year, “He’s a quiet and unassuming man who never seeks attention for his deeds.”

Reynolds, 64, is a self-described “homebody” who gets things done. He’s lived in Sweet Home most of his life, but, as he admitted, some of it was “complicated.”

Born in Portland, he moved with his family to the Sweet Home area as a junior-high student. His mother, Samilla Stewart, disappeared two weeks before Christmas in 1974 while delivering lunch to her brother, who worked at the Tomco Cascadia plant. Three days later, her vehicle, a 1960 Chevrolet Impala, and her purse were found in the Santiam River at Moose Creek and Highway 20. Authorities believed it had overturned and landed upside down in about 8 feet of water, according to The New Era at the time.

In 1979, two fishermen discovered a skull in the river about a mile and a half downstream from where the vehicle had been found. In 2010 it was identified as Reynolds’ mother’s. The family had held a memorial service for her years earlier.

Reynolds had a younger brother and sister at the time, and after his mother’s remains were identified, he learned he had another sister as well, on his absentee father’s side.

A Crawfordsville family, the Blackwells, raised Reynolds after his mother disappeared.

“They took me in like I was one of their own,” he said, “so I have some siblings there as well.”

After graduating from Sweet Home High School, Reynolds attended Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho, for a year, then lived with an aunt in Eugene while earning a degree in forest technology from Lane Community College.

“I was working for the [U.S.] Forest Service on a couple of summer deals while in college,” he recalled. “When I came in the second year, I visited the prof at the community college. Jack Barringer (then president of Cascade Timber Consulting) happened to call while I was there and the prof answered his phone, and the rest is history.”

Forty-two years of history, no less.

Reynolds started with CTC in typical forestry work, he said.

“I started there doing timber sales and then kind of moved from there into timber sale administration,” he recalled.

Then the computer era arrived, and he “kind of inherited the IT job” at CTC.

Now he handles the company’s basic information technology needs, including some of its mapping, but he’s also focused heavily on maintaining its geographic information system, “roads, all the amounts for our stands, keeping that up to date.”

He records all the company’s harvest information, entering it into its GPS system.

“When it comes to the really heavy-duty stuff, I have a guy on my wall that I call,” he said, laughing.

Reynolds began attending Crawfordsville Community Church as a teen.

“I don’t really know why,” he said. “It was there.”

He met Paula McLain at the church, and they were married in 1983. They have two daughters, Pam and Melissa, both of whom graduated from Sweet Home High School.

In 2003, at the urging of his predecessor, Sam Shipp, Reynolds decided to run for the Sweet Home School Board, where his boss, Milt Moran, was already serving as a member. Reynolds had been part of the Bond Oversight Committee, tasked with raising community support for upgrades to Sweet Home High School, and had gotten to know Shipp and others.

“I went to school here,” he said, “so I wanted to give back.”

Reynolds’ “hardest” experience on the board, for which he’s served multiple times as chair, was the closure of Crawfordsville School.

“That was a rough season,” he said, adding that the fact that Sweet Home has nine school board members helps because it ensures “lots of opinions.”

“We had to make that decision,” he explained. “We had a policy that kind of helped make the decision, because of the numbers.

“Beyond that, it hasn’t been too bad. It’s a board that has, overall, worked well together. It’s been a good ride, not a lot of strife.”

Reynolds, who’s eyeing retirement in a few years, said he’s helped elderly friends with computer needs, and serves on the Hillside Fellowship board, where he also provides backup for “tech things.”

“I used to do the tech things,” he said, “but we have the younger blood doing it now. That’s kind of nice.”

He and Paula, who’s a part-time classified substitute for the school district, are “pretty much homebodies” who like to take occasional trips around the Northwest.

“We like to do yard work, and we like to visit the grandson,” he said.

He plans to continue his involvement with the school district after he steps down from the school board at the end of June.

“I told (Business Manager) Kevin Strong that I plan on serving on the schools budget committee,” he said. “They always struggle getting budget committee members.”