Matt Kassahn, 38, of Joseph, is a Wallowa County native, married to a native Wallowan, Shala (Reynolds), and raising his two kids, Jace, 10 and Karree 6, in the county. Both sides of the family have pioneer roots here.
Like most Wallowa County youth, Matt left the county to pursue his career. But once he married and had kids to think about, he knew he wanted to come “home.”
“I wanted my kids to grow up in the same place I did. There’s something about a small-town atmosphere.”
Matt went to work with his dad at Wallowa Valley Glass after Joseph High School and then went to work for Les Schwab in Enterprise and outside the county. He stayed in that job for 15 years in three different states and then spent three years with Wallowa County Grain Growers before landing the job as Everett Roberts replacement as facilities manager for the Wallowa County Courthouse. Everett had a 21-year career, and Matt is hoping to have the same.
His community project of choice is coaching for Little League. “It takes quite a commitment,” he said. “We just finished up three months of that this spring. But you spend a lot of time when you’re not in baseball season getting ready for the next season.”
A high point for Matt this year was going to the All Stars for the first time as a coach. “That was a new and bright experience,” he said.
Q. Why did you come back to Wallowa County?
A. It’s home. Everybody leaves out of here, but very few stay out of here. Everything I like to do is here. I’m an avid outdoorsman. We’ve got a great bunch of people. The community support is just unbelievable in this place.
Q. What has Wallowa County taught you?
A. Everything in life. If you put your mind to something you can accomplish whatever you want to do: hard work, dedication and you can reach the goals wherever you want. It’s difficult here because you have to have a talent in something to make a living here — you can’t just run out and get any job around here. It’s a struggle for some people, but you can find your job and enjoy the lifestyle if you get the job done and are dedicated to what you are doing.
Q. How has Wallowa County surprised you?
A. The changes over the years. Wallowa County has gone from having such a different economic (driver) to what it is now. It used to be a big timber market, and now it’s crop production and cattle. Timber is almost unheard of economics in Wallowa County. And we’re getting a lot more on the art side, I guess you would say, that would be more of an economic value to the county. I just didn’t ever think the small town would go that way. When you’re growing up, you feel like the things that are there are going to be there when you’re older, and they really aren’t. The county is kind of split — you have your two sides, but I don’t think it’s affected the overall (personality) of the county.