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Living in Community
New executive takes the reins
by Suzi Steffen
When Marcus Hinz isn’t in the downtown Oregon Country Fair office, heading out to the site or dealing with questions about how local businesses think about the Fair, you can find him paddling around the coast.
Hinz, who had only attended the Fair once before being hired as the new executive director a few months ago (he started work on February 9), owns Kayak Tillamook County along with several other “founding owners.” He says that his eclectic background — a bachelor’s degree in social change, a master’s in public administration, professional training in nonprofit development, working as the executive director of the Oregon Energy Coordinators Association — made him a good fit for the Fair. Perhaps that fit is especially good now, when the seven full-time staff members and the OCF board would like to see the Fair transformed into something that has a clear year-round impact.
Hinz says his worldview works with the process of the Fair. “I believe in real democracy,” he says. “I believe in the true democratization of the economic as well as the political system.”
For the Fair, that means a large participatory organization that takes a while to make decisions. In this case, the Fair Family and board decided to split the duties of the executive with Operations Manager Charlie Ruff taking on the Fair itself and Hinz dealing with things like figuring out ways to serve the community all year. “Charlie and I are tag-teaming it,” Hinz says. That means he might be able to relax and enjoy the Fair weekend itself, though he’s been at all kinds of meetings in the run-up to the three-day celebration — including a meeting with food vendors where everyone talked about sourcing local foods and making sure their food was free of genetically modified organisms (commonly known as GMOs). Hinz says he looks forward to working with the community to make changes toward sustainability, localization and self-sufficiency.
But there’s more: “We’re talking about examining our local food systems, examining local energy systems and the production of alternative energy, looking at the gaps in the services to youth in the city,” Hinz says. A youth committee has been meeting for a while now, and Hinz says one thing he’d like to see is the integration of local elders with local youth at the same events and on the same projects. “We’re not trying to create silos,” he says. “We’re trying to create communities.”
And when he gets a bit of a break from “reintroducing the Fair to the community,” he’ll relax into a slightly different community. In a kayak, he says, “you can get places where you can’t hear or see any of civilization, and the animals will come right up to you.”
Before that, even with all of the work leading up to the Fair, he says of his new job and his colleagues, “I’m blessed, absolutely blessed.”