New County Public Works Director is ‘eager to help’

Mikel Diwan started as the new Hood River County Public Works director on July 29, replacing Dean Guess, who retired at the end of June. Recently, Diwan answered some questions to help the community get to know him a little better. –– Ben Mitchell

Tell us a little about yourself: where you grew up, where you went to school, and a little about your family?



I’m originally from Casa Grande, Ariz., which is about 30 miles south of Phoenix. I grew up in a rural area surrounded mostly by either cotton fields or dairies; however my wife and I moved to Phoenix about seven years ago, which is where we moved from last month. Before that, I studied civil engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson. With regards to my family; my mother retired from teaching several years ago, however she still substitutes regularly and my father sold part of his farm so he could retire, yet he still farms. I’ve asked them before if they really know what retirement means.

Where were you employed previously? What has been your experience dealing with public works matters?

Before coming to Hood River, I worked as a civil engineer for the Gila River Indian Community in Sacaton, Ariz. Before that, I spent about 10 years working for private firms doing either civil design or working on land development projects. As I also frequently worked with the public works department while at Gila River; it’s been interesting to address those needs from both the public and private perspectives.

Having primarily resided in Arizona for most of your life, have you ever been to the Gorge before? How are you liking it here?

My wife and I have been to the Gorge a few times over the last few years; however, we hadn’t spent much time exploring the entire county. So far it’s been an incredible experience and we’re anxious to get out and see more.

What do you think of the job so far?

So far it’s been quite interesting and busy. The county’s staff has been extremely helpful and I can tell I’m working with a group of people that really enjoy their job, which unfortunately is rare.

What projects/challenges are you looking forward to working on in Hood River at the Public Works Department?

I’m looking forward to many projects and challenges; however, I think the most prominent relate to issues with funding, road maintenance, and the county’s parks. Funding is a concern pretty much nationwide, so everybody’s trying to do more with less. Most of the county’s roads are in good shape, at least for now, and the parks are highly visible to the public as well. But maintaining those levels is expensive, so I’m eager to help find solutions to those challenges.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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