I've been trying to do an end of the year column for two weeks, but nature won't cooperate.

2008 left with a bang, and at least in the Naselle and north county area, 2009 started off the same way. Citizens and our Emergency Management Agency were put to the test by snow, ice, wind and water. We ended up with considerable property damage and unbudgeted expense for snow removal, but no loss of life. We also showed that we all had learned lessons from the 2007 December storm. Citizens were individually better prepared and more informed. Pacific County Emergency Management Agency got information out more broadly and in a timely manner. At an agency level there was better cooperation and coordination at our Pacific County Emergency Operations Center. We'll do an in-depth review as we move through the recovery process. I'll share that information with you when we finish. Since before Christmas, weather emergencies have been occupying most of our time. Hopefully we can look forward to mild temperatures and just rain for a while. Now there's a true Pacific Northwesterner talking.

Looking back at 2008 you can see progress is being made. PACNET continues to succeed. We implemented, thanks to state funding, a position dedicated to focusing on registered sex offenders that will improve community safety. Our overall uniform crime rate statistics continue to decline and can be viewed on our Web site. Areas do remain that we want to improve on and we will address them in 2009.

As we move into the new year, we always meet with Undersheriff Ron Clark who provides the "motto" for the coming year. We've gone from, "Adapt, Improvise and Overcome" in 2007 to "Just Business" in 2008. Ron's choice this year is "Focus on what you can control." It's my favorite so far. I guess mainly because it's going to stop me from worrying so much about situations that I can't do anything about, like sinkholes in highways and strange ideas in Olympia.

In the spirit of focusing on what we can control, here's a new project we are beginning work on. We were contacted by Sarah Taylor, prevention and intervention specialist at Ilwaco High School, requesting support on a safe and drug free communities grant application being sought by the WellSprings Community Group, a local network working to enhance services in South Pacific County. Our office is very excited about working with the school district, Long Beach Police Department, and many other community partners to help our kids make better decisions. We're hoping that helping students think more clearly about the potential consequences of their actions will keep them out of the criminal justice system. Many dedicated, concerned citizens have done lots of work already. We're happy to be part of the solution.

Our planning group is meeting now. We're developing a series of assemblies involving kids, law enforcement, the courts, juvenile probation and the school district geared to take the students on a trip through the criminal justice system generated by poor decisions, complete with consequences. We hope that students will watch and listen, then make a better choice when they're asked to engage in dangerous or illegal activities. The series of assemblies will show them the reality and possible negative consequences of the choices they will be faced with as they move through high school.

We will prepare an overview and agenda for these proposed assemblies, which will be presented for approval at the Ocean Beach School District board meeting on Jan. 26.

Our office and PACNET are excited to be part of this community effort to help prepare our kids for a more productive life. It's part of our focus this year on what we can do to enhance public safety. What better place to start than working with you and our young people to prevent problems before they occur.

Caught doing something good: Members of the Naselle Volunteer Fire Department who rescued and evacuated several families during last week's flood.

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