Brian Mittge: Hats Off to a Dedicated Public Servant


There’s a disappointed saying you hear sometimes, when a simple bit of the good life is knocked askew by careless or malicious people: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

More often I like to take note of the opposite situation, when I can gratefully call out the kind of people and actions that quietly make improvements or maintain our shared quality of life.

“This is why we CAN have nice things,” I say, and that phrase certainly applies to a man who has given most of his life to public service, retiring Chehalis Mayor Dennis Dawes.

At only age 66, Dawes has already lived several lifetimes of service. He was an officer of the peace, rising to chief of Chehalis police. He was a longtime member of the Chehalis School Board back when I was a student there. He helped oversee the Chehalis-Centralia Airport. And after retiring from the police force, he was elected to the city council and was eventually chosen as mayor by his fellow council members.

“I just ran for those offices because the public was good to me,” Dawes told The Chronicle this week. “I had a good job, good career, able to provide a good life for my family, for my boys as they grew up, my wife. I just felt it was one of the ways I could give back.”

I often see Dawes and his wife walking around the streets of Chehalis with a small dog on the leash. I don’t recall ever seeing him without his jaunty flat cap (he was photographed in it on The Chronicle’s front-page story, in fact).

And so, in honor of a lifetime of service, let’s share a “hat’s off” salute to the kind of guy who keeps our community strong and healthy.

Thanks, Mayor Dawes, for helping make sure we can have nice things.


Hard Traveling

This Memorial Day weekend, the slowdown of the pandemic means people are venturing out. Traffic is returning to our highways. In recent days, however, I’ve noticed a few instances where our roads were clogged with more than crowds.

A few weeks ago a semi carrying 30,000 pounds of fish and a milk truck tangled in Tacoma, leading to a messy crash and icy-slick roads as passing cars spread the milk far down the road.

Wags on Twitter had a field day with clever remarks, including many variations on “don’t cry over the spill.” My favorite was a suggestion that the local humane society send over a team of cats, saying they will have the mess of milk cleaned up in no time.

Meanwhile, just the day before that, a leaking truck left a miles-long two-foot-wide trail of chicken fat near the Idaho border on Interstate 90. The Department of Transportation sent out a flusher truck to wash the road.

I’ve become something of a collector of odd crash and traffic impact reports and have compiled reports from the past few years.

In July 2017 a load of hagfish (also known as slime eels) flew from a semi traveling along the Oregon coast, leading to an impassable roadway at “the scene of the slime” on Highway 101.

That same month in Tacoma, a “half-baked delivery” of spilled bread dough covered I-5 with the glutenous mass, which was still rising as the news story was reported.

There was the February 2019 crash in Tumwater of a truck carrying poultry, which led to a number of birds running free and the hashtag #RunChickenRun. That, however, was nothing compared with the famed Chicken Truck Crash of 1993 (I’m not making this up) when hundreds of fowl ended up living in the woods south of the state Capitol. One observer described it as “a chicken version of ‘Lord of the Flies’” for awhile.

So as you venture forth this Memorial Day weekend, make sure you’re driving safely and giving the semi drivers around you a respectful distance. Their job is hard enough in heavy traffic, so they could use our consideration.

Plus, you never know what their truck might be carrying.


Who in our community deserves a “hat’s off” for making sure we can have nice things? Send Brian Mittge your suggestions at