Name: Ray Horak

Occupation: Telecommunications Consultant, Expert Witness, Author, Writer, Columnist, Analyst

How long have you been in this industry? Since 1970 = 50 years

What is your background, work experience, and education? 
AA, Del Mar College (Corpus Christi, TX). BBA & MBA, The University of Texas at Austin. Ray worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in middle management (Dallas area), then Continental Telephone Company (CONTEL) at the Director (Phoenix) and AVP (Bakersfield) levels before founding a CONTEL subsidiary (Atlanta, St. Louis) and serving as General Manager of a CONTEL Executone (Houston) operation. Spent a year or so as VP Marketing & Sales for a software company (Philadelphia) before forming his own consulting practice. Ray has written hundreds of articles, white papers, and columns. He has additionally authored 5 peer reviewed technical books, 4 of which are best sellers.

Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley? 
Ray moved here 25 years ago to join Margaret, with whom he worked during the CONTEL years.

What inspires your work or sets your business apart? Currently, he serves largely as a consulting/testifying telecommunications expert in litigation and pre-litigation scenarios. "I find the work interesting and challenging. The attorneys with whom I work generally are highly intelligent and appreciative of my expertise".

What is something most people don’t know about your industry? The only secure computer system is one disconnected from the outside world, including most especially the Internet, turned off, encased in lead, buried in a concrete vault at least 20 feet underground in Death Valley, and booby trapped.

What does community mean to you? “Community” is all about commonality. The common physical space we share certainly is important but does not limit us, whether the great little town of Mount Vernon, the beautiful Skagit Valley, the great State of Washington, the Good Old USofA or the Earth in its entirety. It is up to us to honor and respect ourselves and our families, those unrelated who share this space with us (especially those in need and crisis), regardless of race, creed, color, religion, and sexual orientation. Our common humanity demands that we do so … and that we serve as good stewards of the land upon which we live, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, and the animals with which we share this space. Fundamentally, we have more in common that that which sets us apart.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work? I am a voracious reader by nature, a gardener out of necessity, a competitive weightlifter by choice, and a loving husband out of respect and passion for a wonderful woman.

Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in? The Lincoln Theatre, Pacific Northwest Opera, Skagit Symphony, Community Action, Mount Vernon Farmers Market.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Name: Theresa Bergquist

Occupation: Salesmanager Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc. 

How long have you been in this industry? 18 years 

What is your background, work experience, and education? 
The first ½ of my career was educator in the Auburn public schools (17 years) Bachelor’s degree in Education, masters degree from Seattle University (2011) in Community Counseling

Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley? 
I've lived in MV since 2017; continue to work in Seattle end of next year. 

What inspires your work or sets your business apart? 
I get to assist people in one of the most important and joyful times in life.  It is a great way to bring my skill sets of educator, counselor and financial advisor together.  Did you know that not everyone has a good relationship with money?  I always keep in mind that the transaction is a very emotional one

What is something most people don’t know about your industry? 
It is a relationship business more than a numbers business

What does community mean to you? 
I grew up in a family of 11 people.   Our family participated in our church community my entire childhood.  From bring meals to the sick, delivering donuts to the 1st Ave Service center in Seattle after church service, to working for the church as a janitor for many years through high school.  Since leaving home, working and raising a family, I have not formed a community since that time.   I am excited to integrate myself into my new community.  I am a slow starter needing to get the lay of the land before I jump in.   I feel fortunate to be a seed germinating in this club.   

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work? 
Listening, reading, contemplating, building, writing.   I ride a 750 Moto Guzi Breva, love cycling and hiking.   

Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in? 
No other community organizations.  Rotary is my starting place
 
 
 
Occupation: Judge

How long have you been in this industry? 20 years

What is your background, work experience, and education?
I grew up in a very rural community in Western New York and attended college at the University of Massachusetts.  While in school, I studied abroad for one academic year in France and backpacked a bit around Europe and Morocco.  After graduating from college, I worked as a travel agent for two years while wrestling with whether I really wanted to go to law school or if I should pursue a career in social work or the non-profit sector.  After some fun and traveling, I figured it out.  At the time, I lived in a neighborhood in Boston with many people who primarily spoke Spanish, which made me realize that I wanted to learn that language for my personal and professional life as a future lawyer.
 
I took my law school entrance exam, applied to law schools, and quit my job to have a last big adventure and to learn Spanish before settling into a career and student loan debt.  I lived and worked in Chile for several months and then traveled and hiked from Patagonia to Peru before returning for law school in Syracuse.  My husband is a mountain guide and Chilean, so we knew we couldn't stay on the east coast after law school if he wanted to continue with his career.  That's what brought us to Washington, where I hoped to pursue a career in public service and primarily one in criminal law.  
 
I started working at the Skagit County Prosecutor's Office and later transitioned over to the Skagit County Public Defender's Office where I represented people charged with felonies.  I have served as a judge for four years.
 
Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley?
Over 16 years working for Skagit County and 15 years living in Mount Vernon.

What inspires your work or sets your business apart?
I have always been very justice-driven, which is what inspired me to pursue a career in the legal field.  One thing that people don't always understand about the court system is that we serve the public, but we do not represent the public in the same way as other elected officials.  We do our best to do what is just and equitable for each case, but sometimes the law is clear and we must always follow the law.  This is what "the rule of law” means, which is a line that prevents mob justice from infiltrating the court system.
 
What is something most people don’t know about your industry?
Judges rarely use gavels; I have only used a gavel when children visit the courtroom for a tour or an adoption.  Most of our trials do not involve juries.  Superior Court has remained open in some capacity throughout the pandemic and never closed its doors, although most hearings and trials are currently happening over video.

What does community mean to you?
Community is like an extended family.  It's essential to most human survival and existence as we know it.  When I look around at Skagit County, I can see how community-minded individuals and organizations have made such a tremendous difference in most people's daily lives.  This sense of community is also what inspires people to vote for measures that might not directly benefit them but will help their neighbors.  From the friend who helps you out when you're in a time of crisis to the organization that provides a scholarship or assistance with basic human needs, I can't imagine what our world would look like without support from the greater community.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I love hiking, camping, backpacking, skiing, and pretty much anything that gets me outside.  I miss traveling and look forward to a time when it's safe to at least visit family near Buffalo and in Chile.  I take great pleasure in a good book, particularly on a rainy day, although much of my reading is by way of audiobooks.  I also enjoy cooking, baking, and gardening, but only when I'm really in the mood for it.

Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in?
I'm currently the president of Skagit Women in Business, a board member for Community Action of Skagit County, and a member of the Madison Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, although that's only until they can hold elections in November.  I'm on the board of trustees for the Skagit County Law Library.  In terms of the court system, I am on the board of trustees for the Superior Court Judges Association (SCJA), the chair of the SCJA's criminal law and rules committee, and a member of the legislative committee, public outreach committee, and racial justice work group.  
 
 
 
Name: Dave Thomas

Occupation: Skagit County Assessor

How long have you been in this industry?
28 years in real property appraisal, 23 years in the Assessor’s Office including the last 6 years as Assessor.

What is your background, work experience, and education?
Mount Vernon High School graduate and state tournament qualifier in wrestling, 1972 (team placed 4th). Skagit Valley College graduate 1994. Worked 3 years in construction management in early 1980’s for my father’s business, Thomas Construction, Inc., 12 years in retail men’s clothing, owning Mainstream Apparel in early 1990’s. Joined the Assessor’s Office in 1997. Former president of North Puget Sound Chapter of International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) 2004-2014. President of Washington State Association of County Assessor’s (WSACA) 2019.

Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley?
57 years. I arrived in Skagit County as a nine-year old in 1963 and have had the good fortune of getting to work and live here ever since.

What inspires your work or sets your business apart?
I am inspired to serve the people of my community. I apply my customer service background and train our staff to treat everyone in our interactions with respect and dignity. Many of those interactions involve value disputes but it is our duty to listen and try to gain relevant property information before responding. Much of what we do is to educate citizens on the process of valuation and property tax.    

What is something most people don’t know about your industry?
While many may not consider the assessor working on their behalf, the truth is the assessor’s function is to protect property owners from unfair taxation through accurate and equitable valuation. We also defend values in the appeal process from unwarranted reductions, audit participants in tax benefit programs to assure compliance and review legislation to oppose unfair tax shifts resulting from property tax exemptions awarded to special interests.
 

What does community mean to you?
The concept of working together toward the betterment of quality of living. I hold great admiration for those who sacrifice many hours and resources for that purpose. Skagit County is fortunate to have many organizations working to make this a positive and attractive place to live. I am proud to be a part of Skagit Rotary as one of the premier organizations in that endeavor.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I have over 40 years playing or being involved in recreational softball in Skagit County. My sports are now golf and bowling. Other interests include cooking, camping and classic movies.

Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in?
I am currently on the Board of Trustees and Treasurer for the Skagit County Historical Society, President of the Skagit Valley Softball Association and co-director, with Don Wick, of the annual Newhalem Mushball Tournament. While cancelled in 2020, we plan to resume in 2021 for the 42nd tournament.
 
 
 
Name: Dan Toomey
 
Occupation: CPA
 
How long have you been in this industry? 12 years
 
What is your background, work experience, and education? I have a 
Bachelor’s degree in economics from Western Washington University (magna cum laude) and a Master’s degree in taxation from Golden Gate University (summa cum laude). My first job in the public accounting industry was with a mid-sized firm in Tacoma. After a couple years in Tacoma learning the trade I moved back to Skagit County to work for my dad. In 2018 I purchased the practice from him.
 
Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley?
Our family moved from Houston to Mount Vernon in 1989. Other than temporary stops in 
Bellingham and Tacoma, I’ve lived in the Skagit Valley ever sense.
 
What inspires your work or sets your business apart?
I really enjoy educating my clients on the tax and accounting issues relevant to them and their businesses. I think in another life I could have been an educator.
 
What is something most people don’t know about your industry?
I think most people would be surprised to know how much interpretation is involved in taxes. With a given set of facts tax professionals often come to very different conclusions. As the number crunching becomes more automated the job of a CPA has shifted from “bean counter” to “legal researcher”.
 
What does community mean to you?
In my view community means being part of something bigger than yourself.
 
What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
My biggest hobby is spending time with my wife (Karen) and our three-year-old daughter (Josephine). I’m a daily runner and weekly golfer.
 
Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in? 
I have served on the Theater Arts Guild board of trustees for ten years and have served as treasurer for six of those years.
 
 
Dale Ragan
 
I have a degree (B.S.) in Chemistry. My first job after college was in the sugar beet processing industry as a Chemist and Chief Chemist of a sugar factory in Colorado.  
 
After five years I joined Campbell Soup in Sacramento as a Food Technologist. While in Sacramento I attended night school and obtained my Accounting Certificate. To avoid having to move to New Jersey with Campbell Soup I joined a company in N.W. California in the Easter Lily and Horticulture world. After eight years of ocean coast-living I moved to Mount Vernon in 1983 and joined Skagit Gardens as the Comptroller. I obtained my MBA studying at night, and taught accounting and finance classes for a few years. 
 
In 1991 I bought Karl’s Paints and have owned it for over 29 years. I served on a national board for four years of the retail paint and decorating industry.  I expanded the paint stores to Anacortes and Bellingham, and after 16 years slimmed back down to one store in Mount Vernon. Karl’s Paints, founded in 1951, is unique in its approach to serving its customers and its record keeping of customer colors, paint type, and quantities. You want to know your kitchen color in the 1950’s, we can tell you.
 
I served on the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce Board for several years, before being elected to the Mount Vernon City Council, where I served for 16 years. Serving on the Ambulance Commission for four years was quite interesting. About 1994 I joined the Skagit Valley Hospital Foundation and served two terms, co-chairing the “Festival of Trees’ twice.
 
In 199I, I, along with several other Skagit area Rotarians, traveled to N.W. Guatemala with the “Adopt A Village” program. The experience connected to that trip was life changing and unforgettable.  
 
In 2002 I was President of our Mount Vernon Skagit Rotary and my wife and I attended the Rotary International gathering in Barcelona, Spain.
 
In 2019 I ran for the Skagit Regional Hospital Board and was elected to a six-year term. As one can tell I really enjoy being involved in community organizations and their management.
 
I have always been a “car nut”. I have accumulated about 18 cars and trucks, dating back to a 1919. I enjoy maintaining and improving automobiles and have a 5000 sq ft shop. For over 20 years a group of car buddies has gathered every Thursday evening to work on their and my cars.
 
 
 
 
Name: Carl Bruner

Occupation: Retired K-12 Educator

How long have you been in this industry? 37 years

What is your background, work experience, and education?
Worked as a teacher, school psychologist and administrator, retiring after 16 years as superintendent of the Mount Vernon School District.  Earned my BA from the Univ. of Texas (Austin), and my Masters and Doctorate from the Univ. of Washington (Seattle).

Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley?
34 years

What inspires your work or sets your business apart?
From day one, I was motivated by the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of disadvantaged children and youth.

What is something most people don’t know about your industry?
Most people believe they have a lot of knowledge about public schools given their own personal experience. But even parents often lack an understanding of how far public schools have come in their efforts to meet the needs of each individual student, regardless of their challenges.

What does community mean to you?
At an early age, I learned the importance of being an active part of and supporting the community in which I live.  I’m a firm in the old adage, “The true measure of any society [or community] can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work? 
Hiking and backpacking; reading; golf; supporting my grandkids through remote learning!

Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in?
I currently serve on the Board of the Boys & Girls Club of Skagit County and the Brigid Collins Family Support Center.
 
 
 
Name: Jim Koetje

Occupation: Commercial Real Estate Broker

How long have you been in this industry?
Since 1979

What is your background, work experience, and education?
Lynden Christian High School, Skagit Valley College and School. Work in banking and insurance prior to real estate

Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley?
Life

What inspires your work or sets your business apart?
My ability to keep clients focused on the big picture of the deal for the long term

What does community mean to you?
Skagit County is a community of giving, caring generous people who help and assist others in need financially and emotionally when times are tough. 

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I love to read, hike, fish, travel and spend time with friends, and for 28 years; coaching high school basketball.

Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in?
Over the years I have been on the Board of Directors at Conway School, a volunteer fireman in Conway, volunteer on several City and County committees, volunteer with Downtown Mount Vernon Association and currently serve on the board of Skagit Council Housing (a local non-profit organization that provides housing for elder, low income people).