Person of the Year: Orin Smith Conquered the Business World, Then He Gave Back


Had Orin Smith been a child in 2018, he might have been identified as at-risk. 

Mired in the same poverty many Lewis County families find themselves in today, Smith and his brothers and sister weren’t exposed to expensive entertainment or recreation options available to more affluent families. 

Instead, their dedicated, loving and hard-working mother, Vernetta Smith, would take her children to the library, often with their friends in tow, in order to take home books for free.

Supported by his community, Orin Smith rose from that humble start, first becoming a promising student who graduated from W.F. West in 1960, and later emerging as one of the most successful and renowned CEOs in the world. 

He graduated from Centralia College, the University of Washington and Harvard Business School. He served as the budget director for two Washington governors. He led the Pacific Northwest consulting practice of what’s known today as Deloitte. He served as CEO of two international transportation companies. 

Then, in a move that would take him to worldwide prominence, he signed on to work with a regional coffee company known as Starbucks. In the years that followed, he rose to the position of CEO. Beyond his personal growth, his leadership of the company coincided with the company’s explosive expansion into an international business behemoth. 

Starbucks went from having just 45 locations to nearly 10,000 in 33 countries under the guidance of Smith. Now, in retirement and living in Wyoming, he serves on the boards of Nike and Disney after also being a member of the University of Washington Board of Regents. 

If it were to end there, his story would certainly be among the greatest rags-to-riches success stories to arise from not just Washington, but the country at large. 

But it didn’t end there. 

Instead, Smith has, again and again, returned to the community that embraced him as a child to support — both with his wisdom and finances — children of his hometown who aren’t much different than the young boy who went to the library with his mother and siblings every week to check out books. 

In late December, Smith dedicated $10 million for the Chehalis Foundation’s successful and growing Student Achievement Initiative, a four-year focus that has led to incredible improvements in outcomes for graduates of the Chehalis School District. The donation from his family foundation will generate $100,000 a year for the initiative in perpetuity.

That momentous announcement followed his previous support of the foundation in addition to a broad range of projects that have together worked to reshape the opportunities of children growing up in Chehalis. 

{{tncms-inline content="<p class="p1"><span class="s1">In 2010, The Chronicle created a new annual honor for people who go out of their comfort zone, taking on more than their regular job in a major effort to help the community.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">The inaugural Chronicle Person of the Year was Dale Pullin, a businessman who has lent his acumen and expertise to revitalization efforts in downtown Centralia and to an effort to build a regional sports complex at Fort Borst Park.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">In 2011, we acknowledged a lifetime of volunteerism by Chehalis dentist John Henricksen, who became the face of a citizen effort to make sure the pain of the 2007 flood never happens again.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">In 2012, we honored Gail Shaw, chairman of the Industrial Commission and a “social capitalist” who spent 60 years building up his adopted hometown of Chehalis.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Multiple people received the honor in 2013, as Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, Sheriff Steve Mansfield,<span class="Apple-converted-space">  </span>Detective Bruce Kimsey and resident Dennis Hadaller were acknowledged for their roles in solving the 1985 murders of Ed and Minnie Maurin and prosecuting a suspect.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Connie Bode, of the Chehalis Foundation, received the honor in 2014 for her work in creating the Gail and Carolyn Shaw Aquatic Center in Chehalis.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">The 2015 award was again for People of the Year, this time going to Raise for Rowyn founders Brynn Johnson and Cassie Miller, who created an organization that helps raise money to pay for the funeral expenses of children.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">In 2016, the honor went to the late Donna Karvia, a lifetime volunteer and former Lewis County clerk who gave her time and talents to many organizations and charitable efforts before her death in 2017. <span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p>" id="0663ba5d-11a8-4389-afc4-c9421f47b14a" style-type="info" title="Previous Chronicle Person of the Year Honorees" type="relcontent"}}

He was a lead supporter of the Gail and Carolyn Shaw Aquatic Center, a world-class facility that replaced its aging predecessor beyond anyone’s initial expectations. 

His financial fingerprints can be found on the Providence Centralia Hospital and Centralia College capital campaigns, the Chehalis Renaissance, the Boys and Girls Club of Chehalis, the United Way of Lewis County, the Discover! Children’s Museum, the Greater Chehalis Food Bank and the Industrial Park at TransAlta, to name just a selection of the targets of his prodigious philanthropy.  

The Vernetta Smith Timberland Regional Library, though, will always hold a special place, both for the Smith family and the community. 

Orin Smith donated $1 million toward the roughly $4 million cost of the facility, which is considered a crown jewel among the civic offerings of the city of Chehalis. 

The building, named for his mother, is a monument built in part by a man who has dedicated his own money to strengthening the overall foundation of the city and the opportunities it offers its youngest members.

It’s a reminder of where he came from and a constant indicator that indeed his heart never left. 

For his incomparable generosity to a community he never forgot, The Chronicle is honored to recognize Orin Smith as its 2017 Person of the Year.

“I want The Chronicle and the Chehalis community to know how incredibly honored I am that you have decided to name me as the 2017 Person of the Year,” Smith wrote in a statement. “To be recognized in this fashion is very meaningful to me, and to be included with other past community leaders such as Gail Shaw is equally rewarding. I have always believed much of the success I have enjoyed in life was due to the strength of the Chehalis community, its caring citizens who were mentors to me in my early years and outstanding community leadership. Accordingly, nothing has given me greater joy than the opportunity I have had in recent years to work with community and education leaders to provide current and future generations with the same opportunities that were made available to me. In every respect since the initial planning for the Vernetta Smith Chehalis Timberland Library through more recent education initiatives, Chehalis has proven to be an incredibly generous community with outstanding leadership and broad community participation. The Chehalis Foundation and Chehalis Renaissance are organizations that I am honored to be a part of, and the ability to participate in projects that improve the quality of life for the Chehalis community gives me great joy. What we have been able to accomplish together has been remarkable and I believe it is only the beginning. Thank you Chehalis for allowing me to be part of the Chehalis community. The positive experience for me has far exceeded my expectations. I am humbled and honored by your support and acknowledgement.”

Far from being the only member of his family to support Chehalis and the broader community, his brothers Michael and Kevin, in addition to his sister Vicki Ducharme, have also been advocates and donors. 

“On behalf of my sister Vicki Ducharme, my brother Michael Smith and our respective families, we are all so very proud of Orin, and we are honored The Chronicle and the Chehalis community are recognizing him as Person of the Year,” Kevin Smith wrote. “While our mother Vernetta Rickert passed away earlier last spring, we know that she is looking down from the heavens with a happy smile on her face and incredible pride of Orin’s many accomplishments and his lifelong philanthropic pursuits. Our family have all worked closely with Orin in these Chehalis endeavors, which have enriched our lives beyond measure. We are so very grateful to Chehalis and The Chronicle for their recognition of Orin and our family.”


The comparison of Orin Smith’s youth to that of an at-risk child in today’s verbiage was first made by Chehalis Foundation board member J. Vander Stoep during a presentation to the Chehalis City Council last October. 

In front of the packed city hall chambers, Vander Stoep delivered a condensed history of Orin Smith, his family, his numerous successes and, above all, his contributions to the community that raised him. 

“His story touches a lot of very deep things for all of us,” Vander Stoep said. “His life story is the American dream. It’s a kid from a poor family who grew up without a lot of material advantages and went to the very top of American and worldwide business. His story involves a strong mother who led the raising of her children, who was dedicated, and one of the evidences we see of that is in the library. She couldn’t afford to take her kids to expensive things growing up, but they could go to the library.”

It’s a story of a small town boy who made good, certainly, but beyond that it’s a story of a small town boy who not only made good, but did good for others, Vander Stoep said. 

Vernetta Smith, who later became Vernetta Rickert after marrying “the love of her life” Walter Rickert, was born Feb. 19, 1923, in Banks, Oregon. She was the eldest of the four children of Merle and Frank May. When she was 5, her family moved to Ryderwood, which at the time was among the largest logging camps in the world. Through a love of school and specifically reading, she eventually graduated as the class valedictorian at Ryderwood High School. 

She married Curtis Smith in 1941 and the family moved to Chehalis. They had five children together, Orin Smith, Michael Smith, Mary Jo Smith, Vicki Ducharme and Kevin Smith. According to her obituary (she passed away April 5, 2017), “her daughter Mary Jo was born with a severe spinal defect and was not expected to survive, but due to Vernetta’s dedication to her care, she lived a happy life until age 14.”

Vernetta Smith was the hard-working and generous matriarch of the family, taking the lead in raising the children and providing opportunities despite financial hardships. 

During the course of her life, she worked for the Chehalis Chamber of Commerce, Green Hill School and the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, all while raising her family.

After retirement and many joyful years married to Walter Rickert, she still remained connected to the Chehalis community, returning to the community in 2008 for a ceremony at the new library that now carries her name. 

“To have my name on this library is something I could never have imagined and I thank the people of Chehalis and my wonderful children for this great honor,” she said, according to her obituary.

As is now well known, Orin Smith had a large financial hand in determining the naming of the world class library that now sits across from Chehalis City Hall.

It was an early indicator of his continued focus on his hometown after a career that took him far from his humble origins in Ryderwood and Chehalis. 


The Foster Business Magazine, published by the University of Washington, provides perhaps the best account of Orin Smith’s rise from a boy in Chehalis to the international business world. 

In an article published in 2016, it’s noted that Smith first attended Centralia College (where he was later named the 1987 Distinguished Alumnus) and then the University of Washington, with his studies focused on accounting, statistics, finance, political science and economics. He was elected Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Gamma Sigma, an honor society for business students, before graduating in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. 

After that, he graduated from Harvard Business School before moving on to consistent full time employment in both the public and private sectors. Through determination, hard work and what friends and associates consistently describe as constant humility, he excelled wherever he went. 

“Smith made his first significant mark in the business world during 14 years with what is now Deloitte, eventually leading its Pacific Northwest consulting practice,” the Foster Business Magazine article notes. “He also served as CEO of two international transportation companies, and as the level-headed chief policy and finance officer for Washington governors Dixie Lee Ray and Booth Gardner.”

During Vander Stoep’s presentation to the Chehalis City Council last October, he noted that Dixie Lee Ray was not as in command of finances as other governors have perhaps been. 

“Orin Smith functionally ran the state of Washington administratively for two years,” Vander Stoep said. 

Around that same time, Starbucks could be described as a small, Pacific Northwest company. It had started with the original location at Pike Place Market, and by the time founder Howard Schultz brought Smith on board as chief financial and administrative officer in 1990, there were 45 locations. 

“The company looked more like a scrappy startup than a global juggernaut,” Foster Business Magazine reported. 

“Starbucks was a risky venture,” Smith told the magazine. “But the store performance was fundamentally sound, the company was growing rapidly, and we had interest from significant venture capital firms.” 

Smith helped Schultz manage the company’s initial public offering in 1992. Then, in 1994, he was promoted to chief operating officer. He served as president and CEO from 2000 until he retired in 2005. 

According to Foster: “During his years of leadership, Starbucks grew from 45 stores to nearly 10,000 in 33 countries, maintaining an astounding 37 percent annual compound growth rate in revenues, earnings per share and share price.”

Smith was honored with the Foster School’s Distinguished Leadership Award in 2001. In 2002, he received Harvard Business School’s Alumni Achievement Award. He was, at the time, one of only 92 graduates out of about 50,000 eligible to receive the award, the school’s highest honor. 

Other honors included: 

• Being named “Best CEO” by Institutional Investor from 2002 to 2004

• Being named among the “Best CEOs in America” by Businessweek

• Being chosen as “Best CEO in the Northwest” by CEO Magazine

• During his tenure, Fortune named Starbucks one of the “10 Most Admired Companies in America” in 2003, 2004 and 2005

• Starbucks was chosen as one of the “100 Best Places to Work in America” from 2001 through 2005 

It was the mission and guiding principles in part shaped by Smith that led to the company’s enormous success. That included treating employees with respect and dignity in an unbroken chain that reached customers who kept coming back again and again. 

It meant adding health care benefits for all employees, providing premium pay when possible and empowering employees with shares of the company, among other advances that were not common in the business world at the time. 

“At the root of our culture is this commitment to people,” Smith told the magazine in 2016. “And this resonates in every culture around the world. Our principles and the culture they built were — in my view and many others — the reason for our great success. Our fortunes soared wherever we went.”

That sentiment — specifically as it relates to culture — was echoed in part by Chehalis School District Superintendent Ed Rothlin in relation to Smith’s contributions in Chehalis. He said Smith, and the Chehalis Foundation as a whole, has helped the district alter its culture from one of traditional teaching and education to one of innovation and excellence. 

After retirement, Smith remained prominent in the highest business circles while also serving as chairman of the Starbucks Foundation until 2014.  He served on the boards of the Walt Disney Company and Nike, maintaining a reputation that led to this quote from Nike chairman Phil Knight:

“When asked in 2010 who would I pick as chairman if I were hit by a bus, my pick was Orin Smith. He is outstanding in every way — as a businessman, as a leader, as a moral man.”

Smith’s philanthropy isn’t relegated to the confines of Chehalis. He and his wife Janet are Presidential Laureates at the University of Washington, providing endowed funds that support a dean at Foster School of Business and a student fellowship endowment that “will launch careers (and companies) in perpetuity,” according to the magazine. The couple has also supported stem cell research and scholarships, in addition to their previous work as co-chairs of the university’s capital campaign. 

His friend Anne McGonigle had this to say about Smith:

“Earnest, compassionate, humble. A principled leader and man of exceptional integrity. That was and is the essence of Orin Smith. You could take the kid out of Chehalis and send him to the University of Washington, Harvard Business School and the heights of business success, but you could never take the Chehalis out of the kid.” 


More Than Just Money

Rising up from humble roots, Orin Smith has made a lasting impact on Chehalis and the surrounding communities through his philanthropic efforts, most recently donating $10 million to support the Chehalis Foundation’s ongoing Student Achievement Initiative.

His financial donations have been immense, but those close to him have said his commitment runs much deeper than that. It’s the amount of personal energy he funnels into projects and people behind them to ensure success that truly leaves a mark beyond anything money could buy.

“He is not just someone that writes a check,” Joanne Schwartz, a founding member of the Chehalis Foundation, said. “He’s incredibly generous with his money, but he’s also been an active participant. He’s interested and involved. He not only wants to know what’s going on but he provides his expertise.”

That expertise has helped propel the community forward and has created a ripple effect that has instilled a passion to make Chehalis a better place. Smith makes investments that he does not expect to personally benefit from, but aims his focus on pursuits the community can take pride in. 

“Orin has been a great contributor to our community both in terms of financially and also what people don’t always get is the experience and the insight he brings in planning and actually building out a project that is successful and does great things longterm,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, who has worked on several projects alongside Smith. 

Through Smith’s involvement, much of his focus has been on education and opportunities for area youths. He’s spent countless hours working with those involved in projects and pursuits that hold the potential to spur positive change. 

After hearing that all of the 2017 graduates from Onalaska High School had been accepted into two- or four-year colleges, he took the time to speak to the administration to see how they accomplished that.

“He didn’t send someone to do it, he sent himself out there," said Larry McGee, a longtime friend who is also involved in many of the projects Smith has supported. “Orin wasn’t making a big deal out of who he was. He said he was invested in the community and wanted to know what the district did that worked.” 

The start of his contributions to Chehalis has in some cases been identified as his investment in the Vernetta Smith Chehalis Timberland Library, but those close to him say they wouldn’t be surprised if he had started earlier. 

“The Chehalis Library is my first knowledge of Orin and his giving to our community,” said Heidi Pehl, owner of I-5 Auto Group and a close family friend of the Smiths. “However, knowing him, his giving probably started sooner. I know for certain that he gave Chehalis a great deal as a high school athlete in helping lead the Bearcat basketball team to its first and only state championship in history.”

Smith, indeed, was member of that 1960 squad, the first and only boys basketball team from W.F. West to raise a state title trophy. 

Vander Stoep noted that accomplishment during his appearance before the Chehalis City Council in October, recalling that even though he would have been just 3 years old in 1960, he still recalled hearing stories about the team in his youth. 

“They talked about that team as a role model,” Vander Stoep said, “that they weren't the best athletes, they weren’t the tallest players, but they were a team and that they gelled as a team during that season, and this idea of teamwork is very much what we’ve seen in this community from Orin and others have seen throughout his career.”


Schwartz said the Chehalis Foundation was the impetus for many of the positive changes the Mint City has experienced over the past decade or so. 

“The library brought Orin home, but having the Chehalis Foundation as a vehicle to make this all happen is really the key to it,” she said. “I think the foundation provided an opportunity for Orin and a lot of people to give back to the community, not that he couldn’t have done it in other ways, but the Chehalis Foundation was sort of the catalyst.” 

Those close to Smith said what makes him special is that he is a humble man who cares strongly about his friends and the betterment of the community. 

“Orin has an incredible view that in order to make the world a better place you must first make your community a better place, and it starts with kids at a young age,” Pehl said. “He told my husband and I when we first met that it is all of our responsibility to help those in our community rise above whatever their situation is and that education is the way to achieve this. Orin’s own personal story tells us all that anyone can achieve unlimited goals and truly live the American dream.” 

Most notably, many say, is his commitment to change the culture in the organizations he’s involved in. That’s as true for his rise at Starbucks as it is for his support for the Chehalis Foundation, which has found startling success in the form of the Student Achievement Initiative. 

Whether it was a business or a school district, Smith has exercised his uncanny ability to focus on the culture of a given group of people and drive them to improve beyond their own initial expectations. 

Rothlin said that mentality in part helped launch the schools to a higher level. When Smith first began donating, it was to support the STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — programs. But later, Smith, along with other donors, funded a study with the BERC group — a prestigious consulting agency — that has tracked the participation of students in college-bound programs and graduation rates. 

Last month, members of the foundation met with The Chronicle to highlight some of the early successes of the initiative, and they were numerous. When the initiative started four years ago, just 20 percent of W.F. West graduates went on to earn a degree or other certification. The Foundation is working to have 60 percent of its students not only attend college, but graduate from college by the class of 2022, and they’re on track to exceed that goal. 

Meanwhile, teachers using the best practices identified through Powerful Teaching and Learning, a term coined by the BERC Group and comprised of the group’s findings and determinations over the years as the firm has worked in other districts striving for positive evolution in local education, has increased from 36 percent in 2013 to 81 percent in 2017. 

The number of students enrolled in eighth-grade Algebra 1 — a key metric in preparing students for the school’s rigorous STEM program — has grown from 28 percent in 2012 to 58 percent in 2017. A new goal has been set at 65 percent. 

Meanwhile, 90 percent of eligible students in the class of 2019 have applied for the state’s College Bound program, a state scholarship that allows for low-income students to attend college through financial aid. 

With 50 percent of students in the district on free or reduced lunch, that represents a large number of students who otherwise would face difficulty paying for college. Preliminary data shows the class of 2017 graduation rate at 91 percent, well above the state average. 

“Why did Orin Smith focus on those kids?” Vander Stoep asked of the focus on kids who otherwise couldn’t afford college. “Because that was him.”

Steve Ward, vice president of finance and administration at Centralia College, has been involved with Orin Smith as an early member of the Chehalis Foundation and in his capacity at the college, where the foundation is building on a partnership to assist the 50 percent of college-bound W.F. West graduates who choose the local institution as the first step to a better life. 

Ward noted that Smith has the ability to provide the people he works with a vision of what a project could truly become right at the outset. 

“Once they adopted that he said ‘now I’m going to help you,’” Ward said. “That’s why he’s so impressive. His money doesn’t just do anything for an immediate piece. His investments help change things for the better.”


At the Chehalis School District, the cultural shift has been important to the success of the schools.

“The Starbucks culture and the employees were the reason they were successful and based on the culture they created and the services they provided … I could say the same thing here with the teachers and their willingness to improve their professions and create a culture that requires them to improve and challenge themselves and at the same time provide a better experience for their students,” Rothlin said. 

Now with the start of the Centralia Community Foundation, which recently received a $2 million grant from the TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Economic and Community Development Board to funnel into the schools, the vision Smith helped progress is moving into other areas of Lewis County. They’ve even retained the BERC Group, just as the Chehalis Foundation did, and the Centralia Community Foundation is likewise focusing on growing its relationship with Centralia College to improve outcomes for students. 

Tim Browning, the former mayor of Centralia who was on Smith’s debate team during their time at Centralia College, said he has received valuable advice from Smith as the foundation begins to attempt to mirror what has been accomplished in Chehalis.

“Orin has always been one who has been about community and about sharing and about making the world around him better,” Browning, the vice president of the Centralia Community Foundation, said. “We’ve talked about how important it is to establish a group in a community that is committed to the overall good of the community. He recognizes that we follow the lead that Chehalis took a number of years to get to. We could cut off a number of years of trial and error with his advice.”

Outside of Lewis County, there’s even more potential. 

Ward and others on the Chehalis Foundation have spoken of the potential for Chehalis to become a model for other school districts across the state and even the country. 

Sen. Braun sees that possibility. 

“We’re already seeing it in Centralia, but I think it will happen on more than one level,” he said. “Equally important, or probably more important, is the focus on not just raising money, but creating programs that have meaningful impacts. That’s what really gets my attention. Orin didn’t just offer to help fund a program — he got involved and has tried to make it the right program to lead to long term success.” 

That creates a pattern that can be replicated in other areas in Lewis County and across Washington state.

“The stuff they are doing in Chehalis can have effects not just in Chehalis and in Centralia, but possibly across the entire state in part because of the donation, but in part because of the focus on results,” Braun said. “It’s not success by accident. It’s very thoughtful.” 


Smith’s commitment to education dates back to before the Student Achievement Initiative in Chehalis. The library project helped provide a place to learn just as he did as a child, and his contributions to the Discover! Children’s Museum following a pilot program also centered around education.

“Orin liked the idea of talking about helping kids get ready for kindergarten because a lot of kids aren’t ready,” McGee said. “This idea of anything that helps the kids learn numbers, shapes, socialization, thinking and problem solving, Orin really liked that.” 

Smith committed $250,000 to help kick off the museum, which supporters hope will be constructed in 2019 near Home Depot in Chehalis. 

“With a guy like Smith, he motivates other people to do good stuff because he is such an example,” McGee said. “It’s not just his money. It’s the way he wants professional processes, measurements and goals put in place. He wants to see the steps along the way.” 

Smith has a way of pushing people to think outside of the box to find research-based methods to reach their goals. 

“You can sit with him for an hour and he is a great listener and at the same time, he really makes you think about what’s best,” Superintendent Rothlin said. “He is very kind, very intelligent, very caring and very passionate. He comes down to sit in my office to talk about our students, and he doesn’t have to do that. Every visit with Orin is special.”


Just outside Rothlin’s office at W.F. West, there’s another reminder of Smith’s contributions. In October, the Chehalis City Council voted to rename a portion of 16th Street as Orin Smith Commemorative Way. 

Likewise, one of two new schools currently under construction in Chehalis will carry his name. 

The other will be named for longtime friend and collaborator James Linott, who himself has financially supported some of the same projects as Smith, along with many others. 

“Orin is the shining example of what someone can achieve if they have the right attitude and work ethic; he also recognizes that he can help others growing up in Chehalis have the same opportunity,” Lintott said in an email to The Chronicle. “Orin gives back because he is one of those people who cares more about others than himself. You see it in what he does; you see it in how he interacts with other people and you see his care for others even in private moments.  He is focused on helping people who need help. He wants to make sure that people who have not had all the breaks that others do in life get a fair chance. He inspires others (including me) to try to live up to his example.”

The two men represent a growing team of Chehalis natives and supporters who continue to give back in impressive sums. 

Earlier this year, Vander Stoep spoke of how the Chehalis School District had received $14 million in contributions through a “long tradition of giving” that spans back to the 1940s and William F. and Blanch E. West. Generous donors have included John and Zylpha Coffman, Ray and Mary Ingwersen, Gail and Carolyn Shaw, and many others.  

While Smith has made a habit of spreading credit around to these individuals and others, with his most recent commitment in the form of $10 million for the Chehalis Foundation, he seems to have left a legacy in Chehalis that is thus far unmatched in terms of scope and success. 

“I was raised to believe that the American dream isn’t just making more money than your parents so you can buy a nicer house,” Vander Stoep said. “But it’s also the idea that you have a responsibility to the next generation, and that is exactly how Orin has lived his life.”

Acknowledging Smith’s impact through the ceremonial renaming of 16th Street was a small step, but it was the right one, he said. 

“The best reason is because given where he came from and understanding Orin Smith’s life, we can say to every kid that ever comes out of Chehalis, ‘you can make it. You can rise in this world as high as your talent and your hard work will take you.’ And, looking at Orin Smith, it can even take you to the top,” Vander Stoep said.