He drives a purple, turbo-charged PT Cruiser. She wields a hammer and saw used to remodel houses they have lived in over the years. Meet Joe Riker, the new Shady Cove City Administrator, and his wife Joan. The multi-talented Rikers are settling in and finding they like the relaxed, friendly ambience of Shady Cove.
Riker began working for Shady Cove in the first week of May after having been chosen over 49 other applicants. The city council felt his 14 years of municipal work experience in Klamath Falls and extensive experience in other cities to be a plus.
Although his last employment was in California, Riker applied for the position to be closer to family. Riker’s 96-year-old father still lives in Klamath Falls where Joe grew up on a ranch. In fact, Riker’s early college degrees are in animal science and psychology because he wanted to be a rancher. With his ever-ready sense of humor and flashing his quick smile, Riker quips, “I was going to be the lone shepherd under the stars offering psychology to people going by.”
After earning a master’s degree at Oregon State in Zoology, Riker did graduate work at Purdue University in Resource Management (environmental science in today’s terms) and earned his Ph.D. Riker then taught animal science first at the University of New Hampshire and later at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
When colleges lost financial support in the 1970’s and programs were cut, Riker returned to Klamath Falls, this time teaching environmental and health sciences at the Oregon Institute of Technology. He later studied municipal planning at the University of Oregon.
Meanwhile, Joan was not sitting around idly. A former Army Clerk-typist at West Point, her mind is as sharp as her husband’s. With three associate degrees and a bachelor’s degree from the Oregon Institute of Technology, she started a consulting business in planning and environmental services. The company consulted in the fields of fish habitats, geothermal heating and tested water for the Bureau of Reclamation among other things.
After more college cutbacks, Riker began working for his wife. The two worked in harmony and the company thrived, doing business all over the U.S., the Balkan States, New Zealand and Australia. Down the line, Joan also established the Area Business Center also in Klamath Falls that provided services to new businesses.
The City of Klamath Falls was a client of the Rikers and Riker produced a comprehensive plan for the planning director. That led to a 14-year career for him as a planner in the public works department, a community development director and as the assistant city manager. Riker found he liked public service.
Interested in the community, Riker also worked for a time on the “Forgotten Americans” which is a non-profit Native American project. He taught English in the jails as a second language to native inmates who were incarcerated for crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder. Riker found it fulfilling. He says, “You would now see people that could read and write. And they were proud and pleased because they no longer had to ask someone to read a manual for them.”
During this time, as well as running a business, Joan was politically active. In 1989, she ran for the office of Klamath County Commissioner. She won the primary but lost the general election. In 1990 came Measure 5 that established limits on Oregon property taxes on real estate and Joan says with a laugh, “Thank God I lost.”
Joan’s father was a carpenter and she inherited his love of carpentry. In Klamath Falls, the Rikers lived on a 140-acre ranch in an old farmhouse with little rooms. With amused pride, Riker tells the story that one Christmas Joan decided they needed a larger living room for a gathering. On December 24th, using a jigsaw, Joan cut down an adjoining bedroom wall and served cocktails the next day in the newly enlarged room.
Over the years, Joan built a barn for horses, several decks, an underground irrigation system, ran water pipelines for cattle, did electrical wiring, installed water tanks and more. With humor she says, “Joe said he got a Ph.D so he did not have to do physical labor.”
After stints as City Manager at Mount Shasta and Interim Manager at the City of Orland, both in California, the Rikers had the opportunity to come home to Oregon by accepting the position in Shady Cove. As Riker puts it with a smile, Joan did not give him a choice. She was coming home, with or without him. Almost thirty seven years of marriage prevailed and the Rikers arrived in Oregon at the end of April.
The Rikers have six daughters— “I had two, Joe had three and we had ours,” says Joan. They are spread all over the country although one daughter is in Medford and “ours” is in Klamath Falls. Holidays are spent with family and weekends find the Rikers joining in at community events.
With hobbies such as painting watercolors and acrylics for Riker and music, reading and remodeling (although contracted out this time) for Joan, the Rikers are happy with plenty to keep them busy. Riker says, “I look forward to becoming a part of the community of Shady Cove, not just the city administrator.” Joan contentedly adds, “I love Shady Cove.”
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent