Helping people is the priority: More than 280 sign on as nominators for Dixon Bledsoe as Silverton’s First Citizen

February 2013 Posted in Community, People
Dixon Bledsoe wears numerous hats, including the executive director of Silverton Area Community Aid.

Dixon Bledsoe wears numerous hats, including the executive director of Silverton Area Community Aid.

By Steve Ritchie 

Brianna Bledsoe thought that nominating her father, Dixon, for Silverton’s First Citizen Award was a good idea. In the process of nominating her dad, a local realtor and the director of Silverton Area Community Aid, Brianna found out she wasn’t alone.

“I felt he was everything a First Citizen should be,” Brianna explained. “He is really focused on serving and helping others and is a great role model for our community.”

Brianna, who was selected Silverton’s Future First Citizen four years ago, confided her plan to a family friend. Soon word began to spread, and, “it snowballed from there.”

People began asking if they could join her in signing the nomination. Shortly before the deadline on Dec. 31, Brianna posted a Facebook message  that she was going to be at Silverton Coffee Station for a couple of hours, and invited people to come by and add their signatures to the form.

“About half the town showed up – I was overwhelmed.  We ended up with 280-290 people signing just in the last two days before the deadline,” Brianna said.

People who added their support include a kindergarten student who knew Dixon as a school crossing guard; young adults who he had coached; SACA clients he had served; and local business owners. Brianna even got calls later from people who said, “I was out of town that day. Can I still sign?”

Silverton Chamber of Commerce
42nd annual First Citizen Banquet

Saturday, Feb. 9, 5:30 p.m.
Oregon Garden Pavilion
879 W. Main St.

Tickets, $35 per person
Silverton Chamber
426 S. Water St.

The outpouring of support vividly demonstrated the impact that 2012 Silverton First Citizen Dixon Bledsoe has had on his home town. The peripatetic Bledsoe has been involved in more community activities than he can count, and, even at age 60, with at least three “day jobs,” he finds it hard to say no, especially if it might help kids.

“I try to jam as much as I can into my life,” Bledsoe said. “I’m a Type A person and I get my energy from people and their stories. They’re absolutely amazing.”

When asked about all the people who signed the nomination, Bledsoe joked, “(My daughter) got a lot of signatures from the people in town that I haven’t annoyed yet. I thought there were about eight, but I guess there were more.”

Bledsoe has lived in Silverton for most of the past 50 years, graduated from Silverton High School, and has served in some high-profile civic positions, including the Silverton City Council and the Planning Commission. He seemingly knows everyone in town, though he jokes that he recently saw a lady downtown he didn’t recognize.

It’s the kids who really pull at Bledsoe’s heart strings, though.

In 1980, Bledsoe went to work for the state as a Child Protective Service Worker, a job that he calls “really difficult but really rewarding.” The burnout rate for that job, he said, is about 12-18 months. He served in it for two and a half years.

Even today, he can describe some of the abuse situations he was called to investigate. In one disturbing case, an 18-month-old child had 19 cigarette burns on her body and two broken bones. Getting her away from her abusive parents into a loving foster family is something that still gives him satisfaction.

For years, Bledsoe coached youth sports, and he has supported a variety of organizations that assist young people, including the Silver Fox Foundation board (for 20 years), the YMCA and the Willamette ESD Board. Long-time friend Mike Bothum said Bledsoe “has a big heart and he’ll do anything for anybody.”

His concern for kids also led him to volunteer as a crossing guard at Eugene Field School.

“I didn’t like to see kids crossing a state highway to get to school with so many cars going by . . . People say they are too busy. Well, the crossing guard thing took 30 minutes out of my day and from a business perspective it probably didn’t hurt my business. People would see me helping kids cross the street and maybe say, ‘Well, he’s not just the SACA director but he’s doing something for the community.’ ”

Bledsoe believes Silverton is “an incredibly generous, warm, caring community,” but also knows that sometimes people need to be encouraged to get involved in volunteer activities.

“I would tell people who are new (to Silverton) two things. One, it’s not a closed community, unless you close your door. There’s plenty of things to do here, so get out and meet some people. The second thing is that whole proverb about how it takes a village to raise a kid. You know, people made fun of Hillary Clinton when she said that, but it is a reality. Fred Parkinson gave me my first job in 1968 cleaning up at his drug store on Saturdays. I would play in the football game on Friday night, then Saturday morning be sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store . . . Fred and hundreds of other people contributed to my growth.

“There’s opportunities everywhere. Do something for the greater good. Everyone could make the time if they found something that is meaningful to them. Serving and helping others is meaningful to me. I genuinely enjoy doing that. I’m a sucker and a mushball for kids.”

Bledsoe lives up to these words. He manages to sell real estate, run a major food distribution center at SACA, write for Our Town, and engage in a myriad of volunteer activities, yet Brianna says her dad “never missed a game or activity that my brother Trevor or I were in. When I was in the school play one year, he attended all six performances. My mom Lisa is the same way.”

Bledsoe also gets excited about finding common ground with people of diverse views. He calls it the “Venn Diagram – where what we have in common intersects.”

“You may be adamantly pro-life and someone else may be adamantly pro-choice. If they can find the area where they intersect, it is substantially better for everyone involved if they can help get a child adopted. We keep trying to out-argue each other but where we connect is we all want to be good parents, if we’re parents, we all want to be good people, we want to do the right thing. Some people want to spend a lot (to solve a problem) while others don’t want to spend anything. But what can we do to help move the U.S., the general community forward? That’s where it happens, right there where we intersect.”

Bledsoe went on to talk about how he is working on his faith and a better connection with God. Then, glancing at his watch, knew duty was calling.

“I’ve rambled. Gotta go feed the world.”

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