Deb Wallace, 2009 Woman of Achievement
“I babysat my brothers all day while my Dad worked…Bill collectors would call, as would the bank, to try to collect on the mortgage payments. I realized we needed more money to live – but we were happy to be living with my dad and I didn’t really think about being poor.” Seeing the opportunities that an education would provide, Deb worked her way through college, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Central Washington University.
Deb’s own family has taught her the lesson of making each day count. She and her husband, John, have three adult children, one of whom has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – a form of muscular dystrophy that occurs primarily in boys and weakens the muscles of the arms, legs and trunk and, in later years, respiratory and heart muscles. “Many people do not know that Deb’s son is confined to a wheelchair and has needed special attention most of his life,” wrote her nominator. “Deb never mentions this as any special demand on her time nor does she want to draw attention to this special responsibility. I believe that this is just another indication of the character of this woman.”
In her previous positions with C-TRAN, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Columbia River Economic Develop Council, and the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Deb has changed the world in countless ways. She helped C-TRAN expand service to more than seven million passengers per year and was responsible for the development of the Fishers Landing Park-and-Ride. Deb also helped small businesses expand in Clark County, bringing jobs to area residents.
As a representative for the 17th Legislative District in Washington state – and chair of the House Committee on Higher Education – Deb continues to advocate for change. She helped make the Washington state capitol building accessible for people with disabilities and has passed legislation to give more students the opportunity to attend college. “Deb is interested in seeing that all young people have access to higher education,” said her nominator. “She knows the balance that must be maintained between access and affordability.”
Community service has also been a part of Deb’s life since a young age. She has a long history of involvement with the Girl Scouts, both as a participant and leader. She formed and chaired the Airport Green Neighborhood Association and was president of the Downtown Vancouver Association; she also served on the Clark County Mental Health Committee and the Daybreak Advisory Committee. Currently she serves on the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership board, ESD 112 Citizens Advisory Committee, the Regional Transportation Committee, the 211-info Board of Directors and the Clark County Skills Center Advisory Committee.
“I would like other people to see that no matter what the challenge, we can come out stronger,” concluded Deb. “We can use our diverse life lessons to make a big difference for others – and in my book, that’s what really counts.”