As Camas and Washougal begin a new decade, the cities have lost two mayors who helped them grow at the start of a new millennium.
Former Camas Mayor Dean Dossett, who served in the role from 1992 to 2004, died Jan. 18 at age 77. Former Washougal Mayor Jeff Guard, the city’s top political figure from 2002 to 2006, died Tuesday at age 66.
Dossett worked at the paper mill in Camas for 38 years, but he is largely remembered for presiding over the city’s economic diversification. While his predecessor, Nan Henriksen, is credited with initiating the effort to rely more heavily on businesses other than the mill, Dossett continued that effort after she left the post.
“It was Nan’s vision, but Dean embraced that vision and put it into practice,” Camas City Councilor Don Chaney said.
Dossett also founded the United Camas Association of Neighborhoods, a now-defunct organization that granted money for projects to neighborhood associations for several years.
“He was a visionary when it came to that,” Chaney said. “The idea was to try to make harmony among neighborhoods.”
During a ceremony at the end of his mayorship, Dossett said he “had a great 12 years.”
“We’ve more than doubled in size since I’ve been mayor,” Dossett said. “Other cities have been devastated by their growth. We’ve been able to handle growth gracefully.”
Chaney met Dossett about 45 years ago while they were playing basketball, a sport they both enjoyed. While they hadn’t spoken much in the past 10 years, their families had traveled together in the past.
“He was just a kind, gentle man who cared a great deal about our community,” Chaney said.
Guard, a Washougal High School graduate who also served with several other community organizations in the city, hired Washougal’s first city administrator. In 2003, he pointed out that department heads “are all overworked,” necessitating the position.
“This person is kind of the glue to pull it all together,” Guard said. “This is about whether we want to be visionary about the future or just get by.”
Guard, who served several years as a city councilor before becoming mayor, ran again for the council in 2007, losing narrowly to former city Councilor Rodney Morris. Before the election, he discussed a topic that continues to dominate civic conversations today.
“Growth is a given issue, but the biggest issue is how you pay to accommodate growth,” Guard said.
Guard’s brother, Sean Guard, was Washougal’s mayor from 2010 to 2017. He said that the decision to hire an administrator allowed the city to not govern by its “hip pocket.”
“I think his time was really a turning point for the city,” Sean Guard said.
Sean Guard said his brother had a number of injuries in the past few years that restricted his activities. He called the death of his brother, whom he remembers largely for his compassion, a shock to the family.
“He was a very gregarious person, you would say,” Sean Guard said. “He was the guy who, if he saw someone down the street was getting picked on, he’d go pick on the other person.”
Based on his involvement in various areas of the city, Jeff Guard might best be remembered for being, as he said in 2007, a man who had “great passion for (his) community.”