Fresh Ideas: Tammy Westergard will be missed in Carson City
April 29, 2015
The capital city is losing a valuable capital asset. Tammy Westergard is leaving us for positive career opportunities in Medford, Ore.
Tammy has been the driving force behind and in front of the best ideas for Carson City. Voters haven't always agreed. Our loss.
Tammy and I go back to the days when we were both pregnant, walking for our health in the 'hood. As a mom at Fritsch, a friend recalls, Tammy spearheaded a Fritsch Family cookbook as a PTA fundraiser, an early leadership opportunity seized by the mother of three.
Seizing opportunity is one of Tammy's many strong suits. In 1996, several of us including Tammy put our careers on hold to work full-time for the (failed) school bond that would have provided for a second high school and third middle school. We believed in smaller schools. We believed Carson City's students deserved smaller schools, and better schools and more options would help Carson attract business investment based on a strong education system. We still believe that.
The rejection of the library/downtown redevelopment core by the voters in 2012 was a blow equal to the loss of the school bond. She and her library collaborators were so brave to try.
As the high profile manager of the Office of Business Development, Tammy helped the city reconsider its downtown redevelopment potential. Then, while full-time deputy director for the library, she went to graduate school, earning a master's in library science. After the defeat of the library measure, she worked within the existing footprint of the library to reinvent its functions for 21st century opportunities, including the digitorium and repurposing the library's second floor as a computer lab for teaching and learning.
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During her five years at the library, Tammy has raised more than $1 million in grants. Her latest coup is funding for a free workforce training program, first of its kind in the nation, to train and prepare people to earn a "manufacturing technician 1" credential for work at Tesla and other businesses.
Tammy has passion, energy and organizational skills which she's taking with her as the director of the Jackson County library district, based in Medford, where she will be in charge of 15 libraries serving 200,000 people in southern Oregon.
Some of the ideas and energy for downtown planning began with Tammy's foresight and drive for what's possible. The momentum for change and the recognition Carson can't be a stuck-in-the-mud community if it wants to thrive in the future — that started with Tammy.
If Tammy were a character in a children's book, she would be "The Little Engine That Could." Oregon is lucky to have her dynamic talents to lead its libraries in the 21st century. While Carson City's loss is Oregon's gain, we are in awe of her ripple effects (one of her favorite terms) that directly or indirectly inspired or nurtured community based innovation including the Downtown Farmers' Market, the ice skating rink, the Greenhouse Project, Karen Abowd's Food Hub, the Adams business incubator project, and the BRIC business library.
Tammy has always been able to see the best in people and places. We wish her well in the blossoming of her library career. We hope in her absence, Carson City will become the community she envisioned: a vibrant capital city for families and retirees — tourist and business friendly — where innovation and history are both embraced. And with a new library. In short, the place she'd like to live in retirement.
Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.