Graduation season is upon us; and if any of us are lucky enough to be attending a ceremony in the weeks ahead, we will almost certainly hear someone talking about change.  I think the most popular graduation aphorism is something along the lines of, “The only constant in life is change.”  While I respect the truth in that statement, my view is more selfish:  I like changes I regard as good and reserve the right to dislike anything that seems to be a change for the worse.

I am not happy, for example, that Ed Boyd is leaving his position as Police Chief at the end of this month.  Ed is one of the most honorable and capable people I know, so his departure is both a personal and professional loss.  I am, at the same time, very happy for Ed that he is retiring to a less stressful position and will be doing a job that gives him more time to be with his family.  Serving as a chief of police is one of the most difficult jobs I know because it’s nearly impossible to do well without angering someone.  Ed has made many hard decisions during his seven-plus years as Chief, and I have never known him to be unconcerned about the effects of his choices on the Department or the community.  I recently received an e-mail from an APD officer who summarized it best for me:  “Ed Boyd is the gold standard.”

My unhappiness in losing Ed is balanced by our good fortune in finding an outstanding new chief.  Mario Lattanzio brings a record and reputation of integrity and accomplishment to Albany that meets or exceeds any I have seen in 25 years as a city manager.  Former APD Interim Chief Bill Kinch and I spent a day at the Mesa, Arizona Police Department, where we heard more than 20 positive evaluations of our new chief from sources throughout his current organization.  I have no doubt our new chief will meet the gold standard.

The most important benefit to me from the change at our Police Department is that I expect Ed Boyd and I to stop talking about fishing trips and start taking them on occasion.  I recently lost my access to a drift boat, and I know Ed has one.  I’m also looking forward to introducing Mario to some of the great hiking opportunities in Oregon.  Bill Kinch and I took the opportunity at the end of our day in Mesa to hike to the top of a hill where the view in all directions was unbroken development.  I think Mario will appreciate the change as well.

The Oregon Cascades

The Beauty of Albany

I wrote about the beauty of Afghanistan in one of my recent columns, and it truly is a place of spectacular vistas.  There is, however, nothing like a trip to Afghanistan to make a person appreciate the beauty of Albany.

My wife and I drove back into town from the Portland airport on a sunny spring afternoon that featured countless flowering trees, well-tended property, some attractive new buildings, and Waverly Lake at our east entrance.  The contrast between the blast walls, unpaved streets, razor wire, dust, and armed soldiers at most major intersections that you see in Kabul and all that we enjoy here at home is remarkable.  In the days since my return, I’ve taken the time to walk, run, and drive around town just to enjoy the scenery.  I visited some new neighborhoods in North Albany where attractive and affordable homes have been constructed in recent years and passed through older neighborhoods where mature landscaping and nicely maintained homes create a welcoming environment.

Shortly after my return, I met our visiting fellows from New Zealand, and I’ve taken some pride in being able to show them a community where people care about the place they call home.  It looks like permits for more than 100 new homes will be issued in 2012-13, and I find it encouraging that many new families are choosing to invest here.  Our new residents probably see many of the same things I regard as important to making a city a nice place to live.

I visited four restaurants in Afghanistan and had to go through a succession of blast barriers and metal detectors as well as a quick frisk before I could be seated.  With one notable exception, the food wasn’t very good and the service was not up to our standards.  Kabul is a difficult place to do business, so I understand why things may not measure up.  Nonetheless, it has been a treat to visit stores and restaurants in Albany that offer a wide selection, are generally clean, and food that is appealing to almost any taste.

Albany is far from perfect, but I am really glad to call it home.  I am equally glad that my grandchildren are being raised nearby in places like Albany that are safe and attractive.  I have learned that any place can be a good place to visit or live if you are surrounded by people of goodwill who care about their communities.  I believe Albany is such a place, and I consider it a privilege to live here.