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Oct. 1, 2023

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Doug Ness, retired CFO who guided The Columbian through tough times, dies at 77

By , Columbian Features Editor
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Doug Ness
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Doug Ness, retired chief financial officer of The Columbian and longtime Columbia River Economic Development Council board member, died early Thursday at age 77 after a long illness.

Ness retired after 31 years with The Columbian in 2016. Columbian owner, chairman and retired publisher Scott Campbell credits Ness with guiding the company through tough financial times to remain locally owned.

“We’re going to miss him,” Campbell said. “Doug was a fun guy with a great sense of humor. He was a really good chief financial officer.”

Campbell is the third generation of his family to own and operate The Columbian. He took the reins from his father in 1987 and passed them to his eldest son, Ben, in 2020.

When the Columbian in 2000 began planning a new office, Ness spearheaded the purchase of the 13-acre former Jantzen swimwear factory near Grand Avenue and state Highway 14, and then its sale when a better site in downtown Vancouver became available. The Grand Avenue property later became home to Grand Central, a shopping center anchored by a Fred Meyer store, and The Columbian pursued construction on West Sixth Street.

The new six-story office building opened just as the Great Recession took hold. The newspaper industry cratered, and The Columbian declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bank of America foreclosed on the new building, which the city of Vancouver later purchased and turned into City Hall. The Columbian returned to its former offices at 701 W. Eighth St. in 2008 and emerged from bankruptcy in 2010.

“We had to scramble to try to make it through that crisis,” Campbell said. “There were some pretty tough days. It was important to have good financial guy.”

Ness, a native of the state, graduated from Washington State University and moved to the Vancouver area in the late 1960s. In addition to his role at The Columbian, he served two six-year terms on the board of Columbia River Economic Development Council, stepping away in 2007.

A car buff, Ness also enjoyed skiing, bicycling, boating and riding motorcycles. Ness and his wife of 19 years, Edna, had a blended family. He brought four daughters to the marriage and Edna three sons. The couple has seven grandchildren.

“He courageously faced his illnesses,” Edna Ness said. “He always kept a sense of humor.”