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He sees `big picture'

Scott Morris -- Avista Utilities — general manager, youth soccer coach and community activist -- tonight — will be named president of the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County.

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Avista exec takes helm of chamber

For an upper-management businessman accustomed to making decisions, Scott Morris seems to have a hard time saying no.

As general manager of Avista Utilities the 41-year-old Morris oversees an area that stretches from the Rogue Valley to Klamath Falls, Roseburg, La Grande and even South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

But that hasn't stopped him from serving on the boards of five nonprofit groups and spending evenings he's not at board meetings (and some evenings he's supposed to be at board meetings) coaching youth baseball, basketball and soccer.

I've coached ever since I got here, says Morris, who moved his family to Medford from Spokane, Wash., in 1991. I've got four kids and they are all pretty active.

So is their dad.

Tonight, Morris will take office as president of the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County at the chamber's annual banquet at Rogue Valley Country Club. He's served three years on the chamber board and also sits on the boards of the Rogue Valley YMCA, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Providence Community Health Foundation Board and Rogue Community College's Advisory Board. He spent six years on the Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. board.

He's delightful, says April Sevcik, a past chamber president who's served on several boards with Morris. The guy just kind of walks around on water and does all sorts of good things for the community.

He spends a lot of effort outside of work hours on community activities, agrees Gordon Safley, SOREDI's executive director. Our big fear is that we are going to lose him back to the corporate office up north.

Up north is Spokane, where Morris was born and raised and where Avista is headquartered. But Morris says he and his wife, Liz, have taken to the Rogue Valley and don't plan to move.

I've had the opportunity to move back, but from a quality-of-life standpoint we want to stay here, he says. He and his wife of 20 years have four children: Katie, 18; Joe, 14; Anna, 12; and Matt, 8.

Morris holds undergraduate and master's degrees from Gonzaga University in Spokane. He was a pre-law student before taking a job at Avista (then Washington Water Power) 18 years ago. the time he was 24, he was in charge of the utility's Spokane call center.

When Morris takes the reins from outgoing chamber president Curt Johnson tonight, his top priority will be to help ease the increasing pressure that growth has put on roads and other infrastructure.

To have a viable business community, you have to have tremendous infrastructure, he says, and maintain the quality of life at the same time.

Improving the area's telecommunications is also a key issue.

To compete at the next level, we need to be technically advanced, he says.

Other officers who start terms tonight include president-elect Bill Anderberg of Answer Page Inc. and treasurer Jamie Rayburn of the accounting firm Rayburn & Rayburn. Four vice presidents take over working councils: Tim Alford of Rogue Federal Credit Union, communications; architect David Strauss of Skelton, Strauss & Seibert, infrastructure development; Todd Thoreson of DoubleTree Hotel (soon to be Red Lion), regional networking; and Lyn Hennion of Strand, Atkinson, Williams and York, work force development.

We've got such a strong board that you just facilitate, Morris says.

Those who know Morris say he's a good choice to do just that.

He's got an excellence business mind, says Safley. He's able to focus on the big picture.

And that big-picture thinking applies to more than business.

Following an interview Thursday, Morris huddled with a fellow youth soccer coach to talk about practice plans and headed back to work so he could make his son Joe's first freshman football game for North Medford High at 4 p.m.

I was at work at 6:30 this morning, he explains as if to justify knocking off early, because I'm going to be there.

He sees `big picture'