She is 77 now, having spent a lifetime putting her imprint on Camas and Clark County and, in a small way, all of Western Washington. And while Nan Henriksen could rest on her laurels, that would be a waste of time; there is too much that needs to be done.
“I’m president this year of the Rotary Club of Camas-Washougal,” she notes as we sit down at a coffee shop in the city where she has spent her life, aside from college years at the University of Washington. “So that’s a lot of work.”
So is a recitation of Henriksen’s public life. She was mayor of Camas for about a decade. A member of the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. Chair of the freeholders committee that created the county charter adopted by voters in 2014. And while any of those achievements could fill an interview, we are here to talk about the Camas miracle.
Because during the 1980s, Camas reinvented itself. It expanded through annexation; it diversified its tax base; it attracted new industry and looked to the future. After decades of being dominated by the paper mill that has sat along the Columbia River since 1883, the city faced a choice — evolve or die.
“Whether it was a slow death or a very rapid one, the mill was not going to be a Golden Goose,” Henriksen recalled. “When I became mayor, the mill provided about 70 percent of our property tax base; now it’s less than 10 percent.”