A former Camas mayor and city councilman is being remembered this week for his dedication to the community he led during most of the 1990s.
Dean Dossett, who served as Camas’ mayor from 1992 to 2002, and as a councilman in the late ’80s, died Jan. 18, at age 77.
“Dean was a good man,” said Camas City Councilman Don Chaney. “I knew him on a personal level for a long time. We used to play basketball on Wednesday nights. … Dean was a kind and gentle man. He wasn’t a ‘type A’ — more of a ‘type B’ personality. Just a gentleman and kind in every way. I’m going to miss him.”
Dossett appointed Chaney to the city’s chief of police position in 1998. By the time Chaney retired from police work and ran for his first term on the city council in 2008, Dossett was out of local politics and working for himself, conducting estate and antique sales for regional clients.
“He was always into antiques, and he loved classic cars,” said Dossett’s eldest child, Cindy Schutzer, 51, of Seattle. “One of his favorites was a, I believe it was a 1965 GTO, a Pontiac. It was red and it was his baby. He knew if we’d touched it.”
Schutzer and her brother, Doug Dossett, 49, now of Kenmore, Washington, grew up in Camas and graduated from Camas High School — Schutzer in 1986 and Doug Dossett in 1988. Their father had moved from his native Idaho to Camas in 1963 to take a job at the Camas paper mill, where he worked a variety of positions before being named a manager responsible for more than 230 employees working on 21 paper machines. Dossett worked for the mill from 1963 until his retirement in 2001.
Schutzer doesn’t remember her father being particularly interested in politics when she was young, but said he did consider himself a solid member of the Camas community and wasn’t afraid of the unknown.
“He had ideas about how things should work and he was interested in trying new things,” Schutzer said of Dossett. “I’m not sure how he (got into local politics), but I’m sure he thought it would be a good challenge.”
Dossett served as a Camas City Council member from 1986 to 1992 and worked with the finance committee and as the council’s library board liaison.
In 1992, Dossett became the mayor of Camas. His decade-long tenure followed that of former mayor Nan Henriksen, who is often credited with turning Camas’ economy from a “one-mill town” to a more diversified workforce that included high-tech companies like WaferTech and Sharp.
However, said former Camas city administrator Lloyd Halverson, while Henriksen had the vision for that economic diversification, it was Dossett who was mayor when many of those tech companies actually sited in Camas.
“Just today, I was thinking back to the period when (Dossett) was mayor,” said Halverson, who acted as the city’s administrator under Henriksen and Dossett. “There was a huge diversification of the economy. It was Nan’s vision, but Dean was there to implement much of it. He was there when the recruitment of WaferTech happened and for the opening of United Laboratories and the expansion of Sharp.”
Halverson, Chaney and Henriksen were all dismayed to hear of Dossett’s death.
“He was a really good boss to me,” Halverson said Tuesday, choking up at the memory of his days working with Dossett. “I’m grateful to him.”
Henriksen said she always appreciated Dossett’s willingness to “step up and take over the leadership of the city” after she was appointed to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board in 1992.
“Dean kept focus on our vision for Camas that we had developed in the ’80s,” Henriksen said. “While he was mayor, our industrial park grew and our green space continued.”
Henriksen said she wanted to thank Dossett for all he had done for Camas and its citizens.
“He was a very fine mayor,” Halverson added. “He cared deeply about this community and its open spaces and neighborhoods.”
In fact, Chaney added, it was Dossett who founded the United Camas Association of Neighborhoods (UCAN), which granted money to various neighborhood associations for hyperlocal Camas projects like traffic safety and aesthetics.
“That was a part of Dean’s legacy,” Chaney said of UCAN. “It was viable for a number of years and I’m not sure when it fell apart, but I believe it was during the recession, when we didn’t have the money for the grants.”
Although he had been out of politics for 16 years when former Camas Mayor Scott Higgins announced his resignation in 2018, Dossett decided to step up again and try for another run at leading the city.
In March 2018, he joined three other mayoral appointment contenders in front of the Camas City Council.
“My vision for Camas has been, and will continue to be, (making it) one of the most livable communities possible,” Dossett stated in his application to be appointed the city’s mayor in 2018. “This includes well-thought-out residential development that includes open spaces, good traffic flow and non-dictatorial design standards. It also includes continued support of our corporate citizens and partnering with them whenever possible to aid them in expansion or, in the case of new companies, relocating or constructing.”
Dossett added that he thought one of the most significant challenges facing Camas was the possibility that the Camas paper mill would shut down completely.
“We need to begin working on a long-range plan that incorporates the examination of subsidiary impacts of (the mill’s) shutdown,” Dossett told council members in 2018. “And, last but most important, develop a comprehensive plan for ultimate use of the site if it is vacated.”
Dossett is survived by his wife, Janice, of Camas; daughter, Cindy Schutzer, and her husband, Aaron, of Seattle; son, Doug Dossett, and his wife, Lisa Nelson, of Kenmore, Washington; and grandchildren, Stephanie Dossett, 16, and Benjamin Dossett, 19, also of Kenmore.
Schutzer said she remembers her father’s great sense of humor and love of the outdoors.
“He was very goofy and open to new adventures,” Schutzer said. “And he always encouraged me to try new things. Even when things were not going as well as they could have been, he saw new opportunities and was open to them.”
Schutzer remembers many family camping and fishing trips, and said her father was never satisfied by a regular campsite.
“He’d drive up every single dirt road until he found a good spot near the river,” she said. “He was a fly fisherman, so we had to be near the river. He also liked gardening, and he was a runner. He ran several marathons and he got me into running. We would run around Camas when I came to visit.”
Although he mostly enjoyed traveling around the Pacific Northwest, Schutzer said her father did get to experience international travel during his time as Camas’ mayor, visiting the city’s sister city in Japan and getting to take a trip to Texas, where he met then-President Bill Clinton.
“He got to shake hands with him,” Schutzer said of her dad meeting the president. “He never forgot it.”
Halverson said he remembers Dossett’s love of green spaces and that he was especially devoted to the city’s acquisition of land near Fallen Leaf Lake and Lacamas Lake.
“He just loved the community,” Halverson said of Dossett.
As for Dossett, his love of the community’s open and green spaces persisted throughout his life. In his 2018 application to be appointed mayor, he told the city council that he believed the continued acquisition of open space for public use and for parks “will become more of a challenge in the future.”
“We need to continue to prioritize that need and work with developers and citizens to accomplish it,” Dossett said.
Dossett’s family is planning an event to commemorate his life, and will have more details at a later date. Schutzer said the event likely will not happen until late February or early March.