Living Legacy: 26 Years of the Paul Gerhardt, Jr. Internship

By Craig Beebe

2011 Gerhardt Intern Jenny Cadigan (right), with the Gerhardt Family at yesterday's picnic.Under sunny skies yesterday at Colonel Summers Park in Southeast Portland, 1000 Friends supporters and staff got together for a fun picnic, sharing kebabs, cold beverages, and a variety of salads and desserts. To a casual observer, it may have seemed like just another one of many lively shindigs around Oregon’s parks in late summer. But there was a special reason for this gathering. We were there to honor the continuing legacy of a man who gave much to 1000 Friends and to Oregon, whose name continues to carry great resonance in our offices, some 26 years after his premature death: Paul Gerhardt, Jr.

Paul began working at 1000 Friends in 1981, and became Senior Planner in 1982. 1000 Friends of Oregon was just a few years old then, amid important times in Oregon’s planning history, as many cities and counties completed their first comprehensive plans. Paul, a Portland native who had studied geography at Macalester College, worked with colleagues to review plans and ensure that they adhered to the state standards. His work and ethics were highly regarded, particularly for his young age—he was only 24 when he began working at 1000 Friends. He was known for careful listening, kindness, and compassion. So it was a major loss to his many friends, colleagues, and loving family when he passed away, of melanoma, in 1985. He was only 28 years old.

Yet Paul’s memory lives on at 1000 Friends, thanks to the generosity of his parents, Paul Sr. and Nancy, who established an endowed internship in his name following his untimely death. Now in its 26th year, the Paul Gerhardt, Jr. Internship has become a signature annual program of 1000 Friends, attracting extraordinary undergraduate and graduate students from around the country, who come to Portland for a summer to learn about and contribute to Oregon’s planning program and to 1000 Friends.

The 2011 Gerhardt Intern, Jenny Cadigan (above, with the Gerhardt family at yesterday's picnic), was raised in Eugene, but comes to 1000 Friends as a planning graduate student fromCalifornia Polytechnic State University. Cadigan decided to become a planner relatively recently, a few years after completing a BA in Art at Western Washington University. She recounts how stunning it was, when she first started becoming familiar with Oregon’s planning system, “to learn more about how where I grew up came to be.” Working for 1000 Friends, she says, has been a particular thrill, because the organization has been so instrumental in shaping Portland and the state—indeed, many of her Cal Poly professors and classmates were excited that she would be working for such a prominent organization. This summer, Jenny has been researching supporting 1000 Friends’ efforts for Healthy Rural Economies, particularly the growth of the Oregon wine industry and the role of agriculture in the Southern Oregon economy.

Reflecting on Jenny's experience, and the fact that the Gerhardt Internship is almost as old as Paul Gerhardt was when he passed away, we decided to check in with some past interns to learn more about the work they contributed to 1000 Friends, and how it has shaped their later careers. 

There is no “standard” Gerhardt Intern. Some, like Andrew Eickmann, the 2005 Gerhardt Intern, were raised in Oregon, and inspired to apply for the internship by their love of their home state. Eickmann says he witnessed rapid growth in his childhood in Washington County, and was inspired to be a force for reversing unchecked growth and helping cities develop in more sustainable, equitable ways. Melissa Dickens, the 2006 Gerhardt Intern, shares a similar story; after growing up in the Portland area, she attended the University of Pennsylvania and was “shocked that not every state looked like Oregon.” She translated that shock into an interest in studying growth management at Penn, and a professor who had previously worked at 1000 Friends helped connect her with the internship program.

Other interns have not been native Oregonians. The 1988 Gerhardt Intern, Nathan Torgelson, came to 1000 Friends from Minnesota, where he had just finished his undergraduate studies at Gustavus Adolphus College, and was amazed by the landscape and people he found in the Northwest, "Not to put too much hyperbole on it, but it was the best summer of my life," he says. 2009’s Bailey Schreiber, was raised in Jackson, Wyoming, and discovered 1000 Friends and the Oregon land use system as a sophomore studying political science at Reed College. She was similarly inspired by her summer at 1000 Friends.

Interns must be undergraduate or graduate students, but can be any age. Catherine Morrow, who was the second Gerhardt Intern, in 1987, came to 1000 Friends in her thirties, after completing an undergraduate degree in Geography at Oregon State University. She had moved to Oregon in the early 1970s, in her twenties, and before she went back to school had already been a Planning Commissioner in Grant County as it was completing its first comprehensive plan.

Despite their variety of backgrounds, Gerhardt Interns do share common memories of doing exciting, challenging work. Many of the early interns worked on crucial research to gauge how the relatively young land use system was working for Oregon. Morrow recalls attending legislative hearings, testifying at the newly-formed Metro about UGB expansions, and researching forest lands. Torgelson worked researched case history of the Land Use Board of Appeals, and traveled throughout the state to meet 1000 Friends supporters and witness land-use issues firsthand.

More recent interns have often completed work that will support 1000 Friends' efforts to improve the land use system for the future. Eickmann worked with staff (including Dan Eisenbeis, himself a former Gerhardt Intern [2003]) to define the scope and organize the Envision Oregon initiative, work that was picked up and carried forward by Melissa Dickens the next summer. Schreiber conducted research on the role of Metropolitan Planning Organizations in addressing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, work she carried into her Reed thesis.

Another thing Gerhardt Interns share is the exciting careers they pursue following the end of the internship summer. Of course, many return to school to finish their degrees, or obtain graduate degrees. Some, including Morrow, Eisenbeis, and Eickmann, joined the 1000 Friends staff for a time, and many Gerhardt Interns work in local government in the Portland area or elsewhere in Oregon. Morrow later became the Deschutes County Planning Director, and also worked as a consultant for Northwest Crossing, Bend’s first mixed-use development. (She’s now retired, and was reached last week by cell phone at her current summer job at US Forest Service lookout tower atop Mount Aldrich in Grant County.) Torgelson earned a Master's in City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, before "running back to the Northwest," where he landed a job with the City of Seattle. After working his way through various positions and becoming Economic Development Director for the City of Kent, as well as a senior adviser to former Mayor Greg Nichols, he's now a Policy and Development Manager for the Parks Department. Eickmann completed a MA in Urban Studies at Portland State and now conducts strategic planning for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, while Dickens works for a private consultant in Tampa, Florida. Schreiber has found herself in a seemingly unlikely place: on a farm in Vermont, where she is considering a career in law.

Paul Gerhardt at work in 1000 Friends' offices in the early 1980s.

Yet all the Gerhardt Interns we reached for this story share a common conviction that their experiences at 1000 Friends have helped shape their later careers, wherever that road takes them. In just three months, most interns find that the experience fosters (or confirms) a spirit of public service like that of Paul Gerhardt, and it’s clear that this commitment shines in the work that many former interns do today. It also creates a sense of how the way that we plan shapes the beauty and economy of Oregon.  

Like many Gerhardt Interns, Torgelson says he learned of the importance of the political system in planning. "That's how decisions get made," he says. "I came to understand that there are a lot of different viewpoints." Over twenty years later, Bailey Schreiber completed her summer at 1000 Friends with similar lessons. Her experience "reinforced the idea that it’s possible to make change within our political system” by working together through respect and honest debate. "Even if I don’t return to Oregon I will carry those lessons forward,” she says.

Interns also find that their convictions for sustainable change are reinforced, and are inspired by what they see at the organization. "The experience of working in a career with dedicated professionals helped provide a model for my future self, exposing me to the profession I wanted to be,” says Eickmann. 

For her part, Schreiber has this advice for future Gerhardt interns: "The issues 1000 Friends of Oregon adresses are as diverse as the state's landscape. You're bound to learn a great deal as long as you stay curious, keep your ears and eyes perked and remember that no matter what road you are headed down, you're in the company of devoted friends."

Whether taking part in major 1000 Friends initiatives like Envision Oregon, or contributing vital research that supports our efforts in more subtle ways, Gerhardt Interns are essential to 1000 Friends’ successes and campaigns on a variety of issues. They are much more than 25 (soon to be 26!) names on a plaque in our main Portland office. They are a community of passionate land use advocates, spread throughout Oregon and the nation. Whatever careers they pursue, in their dedication and integrity they represent the living legacy of a man whose commitment to public service and to a beautiful, balanced Oregon continues to resound in the state he so loved. That legacy will carry forward as 1000 Friends welcomes many more Gerhardt Interns in the years to come.

Oregon Stories | August 2011

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