Officials, friends gather to bid Wilkes’ neighborhood leader farewell

If you don’t know Ross Monn, Chair of Wilkes Community Group, see why sixty folks showed up at to honor this man and wish him well, as he moves to Spokane …

Bonny McKnight, co-chair of the nearby Russell neighborhood, welcomes guests to the farewell celebration for Ross Monn.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Never has the East Portland Neighborhood Office (EPNO) building, in Hazelwood, hosted such a well-attended event, as was the farewell event honoring Wilkes Community Group Chair, Ross Monn, on May 30.

The gathering came about when Monn announced that he will be moving to Spokane to rejoin old friends, and start the next phase in his life.

Known for being a direct-speaking, no-nonsense neighborhood activist, Monn heard a parade of politicians, government workers, volunteers, and friends praise his generous and nurturing nature.

In addition to championing land-use, natural area preservation, and density issues within his neighborhood, Monn also volunteered for tasks ranging from building Portland Rose Festival floats to dealing with land-use issues – and even helping reinvigorate the neighborhood coalition’s newspaper.

Bonny McKnight, co-chair of the nearby Russell neighborhood, started off the tribute saying, “Working with Ross, I felt encouraged to work with my neighborhood, and encouraged about the citywide neighborhood system.” She enumerated the many accomplishments that led to Monn winning the “Spirit of Portland Award” in 2004.

Mayor-elect and Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams says how Monn inspired him to be a better public servant.

Inspires Portland’s Mayor-elect
Portland City Commissioner and Mayor-elect Sam Adams told the group, “Ross advocates for his neighborhood with such precision and effectiveness, that he is not a person that you can ignore. And he does it with such charm.”

Noting that he’d worked with Monn on issues since he’d simply been a staffer for Mayor Vera Katz, Adams added, “You are a testament to the difference that one person can make. You’ve been inspiring to me. You helped me become a better public servant.”

Portland’s newly-minted City Commissioner, Nick Fish, gives Monn the hat given to him when he was assigned to oversee Portland Fire & Rescue earlier that day.

Drawn together by public service
After McKnight read a letter in which Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard expressed his own appreciation for Monn, she introduced Nick Fish, recently elected to take Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten’s post on June 13.

“Public service is what draws all of us here together,” Fish began. “It’s part of what makes Portland great. Ross is a treasure; an unsung hero. I say that both as someone who aspires to public service, and as someone who has volunteered in our community.”

Metro Commissioner Rod Park thanks Monn for his leadership regarding natural-space issues.

Stepping up to tell of Monn’s efforts to improve the Wilkes Creek area, Metro Commissioner Rod Park noted, “It was his efforts, as he pushed and pushed to get help from Metro, that led to our developing a program that allows citizens to participate in improving green-spaces across the region. Ross, you are great advocate for the neighborhood, the city, and the region.”

Oregon House of Representatives Speaker and Democratic Party candidate for US Senate, Jeff Merkley greets departing neighborhood activist Ross Monn at a celebration held in his honor.

Advocated for many issues
Oregon House of Representatives Speaker, and Democratic Party candidate for US Senate, Jeff Merkley stepped up and said his partnership with Monn spans a decade.

“When there was an issue, he would call. I heard from Ross about issues including housing density, traffic congestion, public safety, and getting funding to complete Wilkes Park,” Merkley lauded. “People in government can only do their job well when you have people working in the field channeling your awareness to the issues that need attention. No one has done that better than Ross. We will profoundly miss you.”

Jefferson Smith, Oregon House of Representative candidate, he’s know – and appreciated – Monn for many years.

Oregon House of Representative candidate Jefferson Smith, who aspires to Merkley’s seat, added, “Recognizing the principles of volunteerism, and being a friend, and a valuable member of the community, is worth convening for; worth talking about. Ross stands out because he took on many tasks that were ‘nobody’s job’ – but ones necessary to building a strong community.”

Searching for “just the right words” is Amalia Alarcón, director, City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement.

Searches for descriptive words
The City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement director, Amalia Alarcón, talked about people in her office sought out exactly the right words to describe Ross Monn.

“We could say he works to move a program forward; but ‘move’ is too passive,” Alarcón mused. “‘Compels us forward’ is pretty good. How about ‘propels us’, or ‘catapults us forward’?  Whatever words are used, he is a person for whom we are grateful. We serve the city in a better way, largely because of Ross, and the work he’s done.”

Lise Glancy, with the Port of Portland, presents to Ross Monn a certificate recognizing his “hard work and dedicated service for representing East Portland neighborhood interests, and the port planning process.”

Monn’s nurturing nature revealed
Valerie Curry, Argay neighborhood Chair, said she appreciated how Monn nurtured and guided her when she got involved with her neighborhood’s association.

The Parkrose Heights neighborhood Chair, Carol Williams, told how, throughout her husband’s illness, and subsequent passing, Monn sent her light and cheerful messages and messages of support. “He cares so much, he gets involved.”

Arlene Kimura, Chair of Hazelwood’s association, remarked that Monn was instrumental in working with Commissioner Leonard to get the under-utilized Hazelwood Water Bureau building named for use as EPNO’s new offices.

Richard Bixby, EPNO’s executive director added that, “Any time when something needed to done, Ross would step in.”

Alison Stoll, Bixby’s counterpart at Central Northeast Neighbors, related a story about how Monn sought out resources to help a neighborhood child who needed dental work. “It was a kindhearted thing to do.  Ross, you’ll be remembered for the things that you do that bring people, throughout Portland, together.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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