PENDLETON — For the last 13 years Don Henderson has served as Pendleton Town Council president, but the council meeting tonight will be the last.
Henderson joined the board in 1999 and took over the role of president in 2000. He said together the board has done a lot of good things for Pendleton over the course of his term.
“My goal has always been to make us an oasis people wanted to come to,” Henderson said. “I wanted to make the town self-sufficient and I believe we’ve done that.”
Henderson said there are several accomplishments he’s proud of during his time as council president, all aimed at making Pendleton a place people want to visit and live.
He said the industrial park, built on land the state government gave the town, was one of the biggest keys to unlocking financial independence for the town.
Because of the industrial park, Pendleton has been able to have a say in what businesses move in to the area. Henderson said this has allowed the town leaders to pick which direction they want to head.
He also credited getting the town on the historic register, eliminating truck traffic and building a new fire station as other big steps to making Pendleton a nice place to live.
Henderson is retiring with two years left on his term but said this year was the time to leave the public service.
“I’ve said for years by the time I reached 80 I would be retired,” Henderson, who turned 80 in May, said. “It’s time for me to step aside.”
He said he thinks at a certain point, people, no matter how popular, start losing relevance. At a certain point, other people need to have a turn running things.
While the Town Council meeting tonight is Henderson’s last one, he said he will still be attending various meetings as the president until the end of the year.
“After the 31st I’m history. I am big-time gone,” Henderson said as he laughed. “And that’s the way it should be.”
Henderson said he believed that while serving in a public office, a person is a caretaker of the position, not a proprietor.
“You don’t own the organization, you don’t own your job, you’re just a caretaker while you’re there,” Henderson said. “And when you’re done it’s wise to walk away and leave it in other people’s hands.”
Before joining the council, Henderson was a lobbyist for Farm Bureau Insurance in Washington and retired as the CEO of the insurance company in 1998. He said he never planned on being a town council president after he left but he’s tried to do the best job he could.
“I firmly believe God puts us here for a purpose,” he said. “You have to do the best you can no matter what you’re doing.”
As for what he’ll do during this retirement, Henderson said he has some goals. He wants to spend more time on his family farm, which he said he hasn’t been able to do in the last 13 years. He also wants to learn to play some musical instruments.
“I played the clarinet when I was growing up, so I’d like to take that back up again,” he said. “And I want to learn how to play the piano.”
The final council meeting of Henderson’s long career will be at 6 p.m. at Pendleton Town Hall. Henderson didn’t think there would be much business to discuss, there will be a celebration for his career afterward.
Henderson has personally invited many of his friends, colleagues and former work partners to the meeting.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB or call him at 640-4847.