The Morning Press: A review of the week's news

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A look back at some of this week's top stories:

County shocker: Benton tapped for top environmental job

State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, was tapped Wednesday to become Clark County’s director of environmental services in a surprise and controversial move by Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke.

The two Republican commissioners’ action came about despite the angry objection of Democratic Commissioner Steve Stuart, who called the action “political cronyism.”

Madore and Mielke directed County Administrator Bill Barron to begin the hiring process for Benton, saying it was unlikely a better candidate could be found, and the need to hire quickly required bypassing the county’s typical hiring practices.

Barron said after the meeting he would call Benton to offer him the job.

Messages left for Benton requesting comment went unreturned as of The Columbian’s press time.

After chiding Madore and Mielke for circumventing the hiring process the county typically goes through, Stuart began to pack up his files and put on his suit coat.

“I can’t even believe you guys are discussing that,” Stuart said. “This is disgusting. It really is. I’m done for the day. I am so sick. You gotta honor the organization, you gotta actually honor the integrity of the organization and the process to find the right people for the job. If after that process you find that he is the right person, God bless. Then you choose him. And you choose him with pride. But to choose him without even going through a process is diminishing and demeaning to him. It’s demeaning to Don Benton because it smacks of political cronyism that you would appoint him without a process. It is saying that he couldn’t make it through the process on his own accord with his own merits.”

As Stuart left the room, Mielke told him, “you are way out of line.” Stuart snapped back: “You guys are out of line.”

See continuing coverage here.

Keeping track of crime in Clark County

photoClick to enlarge

Do you feel safe on your home turf? The 2012 year-end crimes rates show where crime is concentrated in Clark County, and what kind of crimes these neighborhoods attract. But statistics and figures aren't always what they appear to be.

By reviewing crime rates for the 95 or so neighborhoods in the county, you'll learn the safest is the North Fork Lewis River, an area at the edge of the county lines near Woodland, tucked away from any major metro area. The neighboring East Fork Hills Rural neighborhood is the second safest. No surprise there.

For something closer to civilization (and a Target), the Village at Fisher's Landing boasts the third-safest neighborhood, an area bordered by Highway 14 and Southeast 164th Avenue with a population of less than 700. This neighborhood saw a 45 percent decrease in crime from 2011 to 2012, with just 12 crimes reported last year.

"It's really a close-knit little neighborhood," said resident Bob Dehler, Village at Fisher's Landing Neighborhood Association president.

He's lived in the area for 13 years and suspects criminals are discouraged by the many residents who frequently walk or run in the 10-block neighborhood. People aren't afraid to be out in the neighborhood at dark, but they're also never hesitant to report suspicious activity to the police. It helps that a few retired sheriff's deputies live in the neighborhood and that there's no commercial district.

The layout of the neighborhood also makes for a difficult getaway. There's only two ways to get in and out of the neighborhood, so a criminal could find themselves stuck.

Read the full story here.

Beloved singing Costco clerk mending after surgery

Facebook is overflowing with electronic well-wishes and prayers for the beloved singing Costco clerk, Teddy Patrick of Vancouver, who was hospitalized last weekend.

To the distress of his loyal following, severe headaches had often kept Patrick home from work recently. He drove himself to the PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center on Sunday, where he underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.

“I am so blessed,” Patrick said after being discharged from the hospital on Wednesday. “The Lord has healed me. I am so overwhelmed with great joy and appreciation.”

Patrick, 71, has won the hearts of thousands of customers at the Costco store on Northeast 84th Street in Vancouver, where his job in customer service includes checking receipts as customers leave. He looks customers in the eye and offers sincere good wishes. Sometimes he croons “Unchained Melody” or another song.

A few years ago, a shopper started a Facebook page in his honor — "Teddy from Costco Vancouver, WA" — that has 3,862 fans and counting.

Former coworker Debi Cronin-Stoll has been posting updates on Patrick’s condition.

Read the full story here.

Missing Battle Ground woman found safe

photoBetty Kramer

Search and rescue crews located an 86-year-old Battle Ground woman Thursday who had been missing in a wooded area near her home for nearly 24 hours.

Betty Kramer left her family’s home at 25009 N.E. 239th Circle between 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesday for her daily walk but never returned home, Clark County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Fred Neiman said.

Family members searched for her without luck and called the sheriff’s office about 9 p.m. About 16 volunteers searched the area until 3 a.m. Thursday morning, when the search petered out. Neiman said a few people continued looking throughout the night, but the search hit full swing again about 7 a.m.

A dozen volunteers continued the search Thursday, setting up a command post about a half mile away from the family home at the corner of East Berry Road and Kaskillah Drive, south of Moulton Falls Park. Searchers looked for Kramer on foot, in cars driving on logging roads and from above in the sheriff’s office fixed-wing aircraft. Police canines also aided in the search.

They located Kramer just after 2 p.m.

Read the full story here.

Some things you may have missed:

Nike campaign was broad, complex

Washington state officials, eyeing the rare opportunity to capture a big piece of a Fortune 500 corporation and to transform Clark County's economy with one masterstroke, pursued a planned expansion by Nike Inc. with everything they had.

The officials were concerned that Nike, a company as politically shrewd as it is financially successful, was playing with them to win incentives in its home state of Oregon, according to documents obtained by The Columbian through a public records request. But they played to win anyway.

At stake was the potential to cement in Clark County a new strategic growth center planned by Nike that would funnel into the community a private capital investment of at least $190 million and more than 4,000 jobs over the next five years.

The documents reveal that the failed effort to persuade Nike to extend its Swoosh to Vancouver was far bigger and more complex than initially thought. Washington state government rolled out tax incentives and other funding avenues worth at least $18.6 million to Nike.

When incentives identified by the city of Vancouver are added, the total benefit floated to Nike came to as much as $32 million. And the state was prepared to come up with more, depending on how detailed the company would get about its planned business activities.

Another revelation: The state launched discussions with the city of Vancouver about putting local taxpayers on the hook to acquire the former Hewlett-Packard campus — now owned by the parent company of SEH America — and then lease the east Vancouver property to the apparel giant.

Read the full story here.

She's out of jail after 33 years

When Jackie Webster started working for the Clark County Sheriff's Office 33 years ago as a custody officer, the county's 300-bed jail was just a design. A plan.

Sheriff Garry Lucas can still recall Webster escorting inmates out of the back seat of a police car.

The jail facility built in 1984 has changed, added 269 more beds and otherwise expanded over the years, much like Webster's career. She rose up through the ranks and now, at 61, retires as the Clark County jail chief, a position she's held since 2005.

Commissioner Steve Stuart presented Webster with a plaque, honoring her years of service, at her Tuesday retirement party.

"It's one of the hardest jobs in the county, what you do," Stuart said. "I don't envy any of the work you've done, but I appreciate it."

He also invited her to attend public hearings.

"You're a citizen now. Say what you want," Stuart said with a smile.

Read the full story here.

Dietitian shares strategies to prepare healthful meals that won't strain budget

Feeding a family can be expensive.

Choosing healthful foods over convenient foods can, at times, make the grocery bill even bigger.

But, according to Kaiser Permanente registered dietitian Stasha Hornbeck, feeding your family a nutritious meal using fresh foods doesn't have to break the bank.

"A lot of convenient meals can be recreated at less cost," she said.

Hornbeck explained how it's possible during a recent shopping trip at an area WinCo Foods store. WinCo stores carry a wide variety of foods and produce and have a robust bulk foods section. The stores are budget-friendly, making eating healthful foods and recreating convenient meals more affordable, she said.

Hornbeck shared the following advice for feeding a family a healthful meal while staying within a budget.

Read the full story here.