As reported on today’s front page, a driver traveling east last Thursday on US 12 west of Orofino, Idaho, crossed over the center line and struck Doug and Carol Terry’s van head-on. The van’s driver’s side – Doug’s side – suffered the strongest impact and Doug died at the scene. Wife, Carol, who was in the passenger seat, survives in the hospital with physical injuries.

I’m writing today’s Voice of the Chieftain editorial in the first person singular (that is, using “I” instead of “we”) because I don’t want to presume to speak for others in voicing my personal observations about a local person so recently deceased. I’m a relative newcomer here, and most readers who knew Enterprise City Councilor Doug Terry at all also knew him longer.

My decision isn’t a precedent-setter. Last week, at one of the Chieftain’s sister publications, a staff member penned an editorial in the first person because an earlier editorial he had written, presented in the collective “we” that’s customary for a newspaper’s unsigned opinions, elicited the ire of a local elected official who disagreed with it. In his vehemence, the official lashed out publicly at another member of the newspaper’s editorial staff, whom he mistakenly assumed was the author.

In the unsigned and again in the signed editorial, the newspaper argued for more earnest debate of a major new undertaking, a commitment that includes a known tax increase and could require other, as yet unknown subsidies. Hence the newspaper’s call for slowing the process. The local government, however, chaffing at the impertinence of the very suggestion, deliberated hardly at all and voted unanimously to move full speed ahead.

On an Enterprise City Council with Doug Terry, this never would have happened. Just review the council vote tallies during the past few years for almost any assortment of non-routine spending proposals and chances are good that you’ll find a single “no” vote cast in at least half of the measures. At risk of becoming unpopular and frequently at a cost of being misunderstood, Terry stood pretty firmly as the council’s most consistent skeptic, often concluding in the role of naysayer.

You could win him over to a good cause, but he wanted discussion to expose any weak assumptions, lest everyone give in too readily to all humans’ underlying lemming nature.

“I am not afraid to voice my opinion and will work for ideas I believe in, but will consider other ideas and can be converted if shown facts to support another view,” Terry wrote at the end of a candidate questionnaire in 2008.

He would also stand firm on principle, even if the matter on the table was one he was yearning to support. A case in point: the city’s new sewer rates. More than a year ago, convinced that local motels were indeed receiving a very raw deal under the existing rate structure, Terry took a leading role in drawing up different rates, not the simplest of projects. Despite his ongoing involvement, the proposal that finally emerged a couple of months ago, though an improvement over the status quo, didn’t quite fit Terry’s conception of fairness. So, once again, the council’s vote on a big issue included one glaring “no,” from Doug Terry.

A resourceful and inventive man who could redesign a wind turbine to fit his needs using salvaged and fabricated parts, Doug always struck me as someone who took no pleasure in denying anything to anyone. What I think he wanted was for people to become more resourceful and inventive as a group, to find less wasteful, more sustainable means for reaching their aims.

Is there anything wrong with our leaders asking more questions and saying “no” whenever the answers don’t satisfy?


--Rob Ruth

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