The Tallman and the Two-Headed Goat by William Sercombe

The Tallman and the Two-Headed Goat

William Sercombe

Natural hazards big and small occur throughout every county in Oregon. Each county has its own specific hazards and vulnerabilities which is why each has their own mitigation plan. This plan also known as a Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan is what brought me within feet of the Marlboro-Man-styled “Tallman,” of Lakeview, Oregon.

My Resource Assistance to Rural Environment (RARE) placement has me working under Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience (OPDR) program specialist Michael Howard. Last week Michael and I traveled southeast to the cities of Burns and Hines in Harney County and the “Tallest Town in Oregon” – Lakeview — in Lake County. I had never been to this part of the state and my only preconception is from my mother who raved about a two-headed goat skull on display in the Burns Museum. Sadly, I never saw the goat skull; my time was primarily spent in meetings. Both Lake and Harney County are in the process of updating their Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan (NHMP). OPDR’s role in this is to create a coalition of public and private stakeholders and use their knowledge to draft an NHMP update complete with an updated community profile, hazard risk assessments, and hazard-specific action items among other things. Both counties’ previous plans are expiring in the next couple months and the update will provide eligibility to FEMA funded grant money for the next four years.

I concede that if not for this position I may not have ever traveled through two of the least populated counties of Oregon, whose cow-to-person ratio may be over 20:1. As a born and raised Oregonian who seldom leaves the Willamette Valley I now believe that there is a vast amount of Oregon I still have to explore. The thirteen hour round-trip was eye opening. We found ourselves taking pictures as often as tourists, impressed by the intricate geological formations and vast flat expanses. Through the car window, I became aware of the different natural hazards this part of the state poses. With nearly one third of the annual rainfall as Eugene the semi-arid landscape is much more prone to wildfire and drought. Stepping out of the car to snap a picture was met with winter temperatures that were as low as single digits at one point during our visit — winter storms are also a dangerous hazard. These specific hazards are what Michael, the OPDR team, and I must consider when drafting an NHMP plan. As these plans come due in the next couple months I hope to check back in, if at least to give detail to the two-headed goat.

Willy Sercombe received his undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon last spring in Planning, Public Policy, & Management and Political Science. A Eugene native, Willy was born a few blocks from the university campus at the Sacred Heart Hospital. Willy’s favorite past time is playing chess and he hopes to revitalize the Emerald City Chess Club. Willy aims to attend graduate school in 2015 in city planning with an emphasis in urban redevelopment and active transportation planning.

Willy now serves as the Resource Assistance to Rural Environments (RARE) Participant for the Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience (OPDR). His current projects involve updating the Natural Hazard Mitigation Plans of several Eastern Oregon counties.

More about the  Resource Assistance to Rural Environment (RARE)

More about the Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience (OPDR)

Meet our Students: Rebecca Harbage / Community and Regional Planning

Meet our Students: Rebecca Harbage / Community and Regional Planning

What city, region, state do you call home?


In which graduate program are you enrolled?

Community and Regional Planning

What is your area of concentration?

Environmental Planning

What will you be doing for the Community Service Center (CSC)?

I am currently employed as a Project Coordinator for one of the Community Planning Workshop (CPW) projects. As such, I manage four first-year graduate students in the Community & Regional Planning program. My project focuses on drafting water quality protections for two small Oregon cities, Gold Hill and Oakridge. We will be working with stakeholders and state agency representatives in both cities to draft programs that meet local needs while also satisfying state and federal regulations.

How does your involvement with the Community Service Center relate to or inform your graduate studies?

My work with the Community Service Center directly ties into my interests in environmental planning and planning for the unique challenges faced by small communities.

What can you say about the value of your Community Service Center experience?

Working with the CSC has been an invaluable part of my graduate studies. As a student in CPW last year, the CSC made it possible to get hands-on experience in my field of interest while continuing to learn and improve upon important skill sets in the safety of the classroom. In addition, this second year with the CSC affords me the opportunity to develop real world project management skills. I appreciate the value these experiences will have as I approach the looming transition out of academia and back into the job market.

What outcome are you hoping for when your project ends?

This question really has two parts. Personally, I hope to use my experience to get a job when my project ends. For the project specifically, I hope that the two communities will have workable water quality programs that they are excited to adopt and implement. I also hope the project will be a valuable example of how regulatory agencies and the university can work together to assist under-resourced communities.

More about the Community Planning Workshop(CPW)