Bits 'n' Pieces: Senator had Jim Caley on speed dial

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It’s not often a U.S. senator gives a eulogy for a Clark County person.

But that is what happened recently when Maria Cantwell spoke at the memorial service for Jim Caley, who died Nov. 8, just two days shy of his 67th birthday.

Caley was well-known for years of service to the Democratic Party of Clark County. A certified public accountant by trade, he was also a former Clark College trustee, served for 27 years on the board of Columbia River Mental Health Services and for years on the state Board of Accountancy.

Cantwell, who was listed as “friend” in the service program, said Caley had been her financial and political adviser for 25 years. She sits on the Senate Finance Committee, and she said often a group of tax lawyers would be in her office, trying to convince her to back a bill.

She said she often called Caley, put him on speaker phone, and asked him how the proposal would play in Vancouver.

“And Jim usually put those lawyers to shame,” she told the overflow crowd.

She said her staff often called Caley for counsel and he always told them what was in the best interests of Clark County’s residents and businesses.

Many influential Clark County Democrats, past and present, were at the service, and Clark County native Denny Heck was the officiant.

Caley schooled this reporter on how politics works in the early 1980s.

I asked how he happened to be appointed to the Clark College board.

He replied, “I campaigned for (former governor) Dixy Lee Ray and she said, ‘What do you want?’ And I said, ‘I want Clark College.’”

— Dave Kern

Social worker honored as best in the state

Elise Petosa has received the best award one can get from their peers: Washington School Social Worker of the Year.

Michael Martin, principal of Sunset Elementary where Petosa, 47, is a school social worker, added that Petosa is a “safe person” at school. He said, “Sunset is a diverse community and she is the first to help with problem-solving.” This is her fourth year at Sunset.

“I was humbled and touched to be honored for the work I do with kids,” Petosa said.

As a child, she had her sights set on being a teacher. At college, social work appealed. She combined the two.

Petosa said her work is all about helping children fulfill their potential. She not only works with children, but their parents, grandparents or teachers to find a solution.

Corrine Anderson-Ketchmark, executive director of the Washington Association of School Social Workers, nominated Petosa for the award. She said, “Petosa’s dedication and passion for school social work is a strong asset to our profession and the students’ families and staff she serves.” Petosa has been president of the organization for the past 11 years.

Petosa makes lasting connections to kids. This past spring she was invited to a high school graduation even though the student and her parents had moved to another state years ago. The girl stayed in touch.

Petosa hears about children who are struggling with family issues: divorce, death, a parent in jail, lack of suitable housing. She connects with the student and helps find solutions.

—Mary Ricks

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Ruth Zschomler, 360-735-4530, or email ruth.zschomler@columbian.com.