Brian Coughlan is a fifth-generation Wallowa Countian who graduated from Joseph High School, went away to begin his career and came home in 2001.
After graduating from Joseph High, he earned a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon and went to work managing assisted living group homes in Portland and leaped into a new career in Internet marketing in New York City. There he met his wife, Cheryl, who is now executive director as the Josephy Center. The couple had two children, Ella, 16, and Henry, 13.
They didn’t want to raise children in New York City, so Brian told his wife they could move anywhere they wanted –– and she chose Portland. But they came to Wallowa County first and never left. Coughlan owns Eastern Oregon Landscaping, employs 15 people seasonally, and plows snow in the winter.
He’s very active with the Lions Club International and works as the ski hill manager at Ferguson Ski Ridge. His wife is involved in Wallowa County Rotary International. He’s also director of the North East Oregon Aviation Foundation and works at increasing awareness of aviation within the county and helps the foundation toward its goal of establishing aviation education in all of the schools in the county.
His services as a landscaper are also valuable for community projects. He spent countless hours working on the Joseph Park project and recently finished installing the irrigation and sod there. He sponsors many events and does “a million other things school-related.” Oh, and he’s a gravedigger.
Q. You’ve seen some sights and experienced some different cultures in your lifetime, what made Wallowa County attractive to you?
A. Family and lifestyle definitely, that’s what keeps us here. For me this lifestyle gives me time to be with my kids and family and friends. Being here allows me to go skiing and do the things I like. I can live my lifestyle more so than in the city.
Q. How did you decide to go into landscaping as a way to make a living in the county?
A. I worked for Terry Bates at Wallowa County Nursery on Fish Hatchery Lane through high school and college and knew the business. When I came back, and we decided to stay here, I had to decide what to do, and this is what I knew here, and there was a need for it. So, I started the company.
I like meeting the people I get to meet and most of the time it’s creative. I like the creative aspect of it. It’s the new installations I like best.
At one point, I expanded to a big landscaping and nursery in La Grande and had 50-some employees, but I sold out of that and came back to this.
Q. What changes have you seen in Wallowa County and what do you think of those?
A. Wallowa County has definitely transformed. There has always been tourism, but having Joseph rebuilt and having the image upscaled was a change in culture. It’s not just logging as it used to be, it’s not resource based –– it’s service based, which can be good or can be bad.
The other big thing is the Internet because you can be in Joseph and have access to the world. You could never do that before. I wouldn’t be here if the Internet didn’t exist. The Wallowa County lifestyle is great but I want access to the world. Now you’re seeing a lot of people move here that are able to because they work remotely, they work in San Francisco and live in Joseph. You get all of the benefits of a small town but some of the benefits of a big town. There are definitely more viewpoints, which in general is good.
I hope my kids just have a choice. Without the Internet, growing up, I felt I had no choice because you only saw what you saw here. That’s no longer the case. My kids can choose. They don’t have to sit in a car and look at streetlights all day long. If you want to you can, but you don’t have to. You can work in an office or not –– I just want to give them a choice.