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Former Douglas County Commissioner Joe Laurance killed in crash Monday


Former Douglas County Commissioner Joe Laurance died Monday while doing one of the things he enjoyed in life — riding his motorcycle.

Laurance was killed in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 138 East Monday afternoon, Oregon State Police reported.

He was 71.

Laurance served in the position now held by Commissioner Tim Freeman from 2007 to 2014.

“We were profoundly saddened to hear the news of the passing of Joe Laurance. He was a colorful character who was passionate about Douglas County, where he was proud to call home,” Freeman said in a statement.

“Joe was a friend and will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends,” Freeman said.

The three current commissioners issued a press release Monday extending condolences to family and friends.

The accident happened at 12:30 p.m. at Milepost 33 near Fall Creek.

Oregon State Police reported a Subaru Forrester operated by Manas Sanyal, 54, of Wisconsin, was westbound and attempted to turn left into a roadside pull out when it was struck by a westbound Honda motorcycle operated by Laurance of Winston.

Laurance sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead. Sanyal was not injured.

State police were assisted by the Glide Fire Department and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Laurance loved serving as a county commissioner. He told The News-Review on his last month in office that it was “the single greatest adventure of a life filled with adventures.”

He said then he was retiring because he’d had a long working life and, then 65, he felt it was time to play. Among the things he said he was excited to do was ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Commissioner positions were still partisan when Laurance ran for his first term and he ran and won as a Democrat, defeating Republican Dan Hern for the post.

The commissioner position later became nonpartisan.

Laurance thought party affiliation wasn’t that important, but serving every citizen regardless of party was.

Prior to his stint as commissioner, Laurance worked in the timber industry as a logger, choker setter and log truck driver. During his tenure, he considered it his mission to open the national forests to increased harvests and biomass retrieval.

Laurance at one point was the subject of an unsuccessful recall attempt.

The effort followed an incident in which a former county employee, Gene Hall, alleged Laurance had intimidated him and impersonated a police officer during a December 2011 roadside confrontation. A Jackson County deputy district attorney declined to file criminal charges, saying there was no evidence to back Hall’s claims.

Laurance was a Vietnam veteran and long hoped to see a veterans retirement home located in Roseburg. Thanks to his efforts, Douglas beat out Jackson, Klamath and other counties to win the right to become the next place to get a home.

However, the home itself has not been built and veterans continue to wait for the dream to become a reality.

Laurance also helped secure funding for a winemaking program at Umpqua Community College, and when it started he signed up for the program and planted his own merlot vines.

New UCC president hopes students find something that makes their hearts sing

WINCHESTER — On her first official day as president of Umpqua Community College Monday, Rachel Pokrandt confessed she hadn’t been a great student in high school.

Pokrandt spoke to a group of students gathered on campus for a picnic with the president.

She told them she got lucky when she went to college, finding faculty members who sat down with her to learn how she was feeling and who tutored her in her hardest subjects.

Today, Pokrandt holds two undergraduate degrees, a master’s degree and a doctorate.

She said she’s fallen in love with lifelong learning.

“I hope you have a similar journey. I hope you find something that really makes your heart sing, and that you can find something you enjoy,” she said.

“I hope we here at UCC make you feel like the college I went to made me feel, like I belonged and that I mattered and I was smart and important,” she said.

She said she’s often asked what gets her up in the morning or keeps her up in the night.

She said what gets her up in the morning is coming to work to serve students.

“What keeps me up at night is are we doing our absolute best for you? Are you getting a return on your investment?” she said.

She told The News-Review she’s found the school and the community incredibly welcoming.

She said it’s lovely to meet some of the students and hear their excitement about their programs and what they’re planning for their future.

Pokrandt was until recently vice president and campus dean for Colorado Mountain College, which has multiple campuses in western Colorado.

It’s a dual mission college, giving out both associate and bachelor’s degrees, she said.

She said she already feels at home because Colorado is similar to Douglas County, with lots of outdoor recreation, and colleges are similar wherever you go.

“Everybody who works at a college works there because they care about the future of students, so a lot of that feels the same,” she said.

While Pokrandt has been in the United States for 33 years, she grew up in the United Kingdom, in Nottingham.

One of her undergraduate degrees is in theater and literature.

“I definitely have a heart for the theater department and everything that goes with that, because that is my original background, so when I came here and saw Jacoby Auditorium I was very impressed and excited,” she said.

She said one of the best things about community colleges is the variety of students, with people attending at different times of their lives.

“I just met somebody who just turned 60, who’s starting off on a new career path, all the way to our Sutherlin kids who are on the track team who just got out of high school. So I love that broad spectrum,” she said.

“It makes it a really fun job and place to work,” she said.

Pokrandt describes herself as a lifelong learner, like many of the students.

“There’s always something new to learn,” she said.

Sprinklers drench blankets leading up to Music on the Half Shell

Someone reportedly broke into the watering system at Stewart Park early Tuesday and turned on the sprinklers in the park, drenching many blankets which had been laid out in anticipation of tonight’s Music on the Half Shell performance by The Four Freshman.

Volunteers were out Tuesday morning attempting to help dry the blankets which had been laid out by concert-goers earlier in the morning. Blankets can be laid to reserve space after 5 a.m. on the day of a concert.

The Four Freshmen are slated to take the stage at 7 p.m. With the high temperature in Roseburg expected to reach 84 degrees today, it’s hoped those blankets will be dry by showtime.