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Former Oakridge official aids in rebuilding war-torn Iraq.

Byline: Profile by The Register-Guard

Name: Wes Hare, 51, former Oakridge City administrator, currently living in Karbala region of Iraq.

Claim to fame: Hare is helping residents in Karbala, 100 miles southwest of Baghdad, restore municipal services and set up local representative government. Karbala is one of Shia Islam's holiest cities because it is home to the shrines of Imam Hussayn and Imam Abbas. He arrived in September and will remain through the end of March. Hare replied to The Register-Guard's questions via e-mail.

Bringing part of Oregon to Iraq: Hare has been working with a wide range of people - villagers, farmers, government agency workers and urban professionals - assisting with projects like bringing potable water to villages and training government workers in service delivery. "Yesterday I conducted a workshop on Oregon's land-use system," Hare said.

Risky conditions: "There have been violent incidents, the worst of which were a series of suicide bombings Dec. 27 that killed more than 20 people," Hare said. He lives in a house in a residential area which, like most Iraqi homes, is surrounded by a brick wall, and he has security guards.

"We have a generator that helps with the frequent power outages, but we still run out of water and electricity periodically. We travel about with some freedom but are usually accompanied by a security guard. Our satellite Internet service is our lifeline to family and the rest of the world."

"The worst moments came following the bombings on Dec. 27," he said. "A little girl I knew was killed at one of the sites."

Living conditions for local Iraqis vary widely, Hare said. The relatively affluent do pretty well. Food is plentiful and cheap. Electricity is unreliable, but many have access to neighborhood backup generators. Security is the biggest issue. "There are dangerous people around and they periodically do senseless things."

Ready for self-governance?: "I believe the people here are ready as soon as the threat of violence can be reduced. It will take some time to create conditions where free and fair elections can take place. ...There is no shortage of educated, intelligent people of good will. They will prevail before long ..."

Dispelling misconceptions: "Most people here are not hostile terrorists," Hare said. "The vast majority are devoutly religious people who want the same things for their families that Oregonians want for their own. Iraqis would feel right at home in Oregon because most all of the folks I've met believe they should not have to pay taxes."

Missing home: "The separation from my wife is by far the hardest part of the posting," Hare said. He also said he misses his grown children and his grandchildren as well. "My youngest granddaughter was born Feb. 4 and I wish I could have been there for my son and his wife."

Why?: "I have done international work in Indonesia and Japan in the past. I like working with people from different backgrounds and cultures. My colleagues in Karbala include a native Sri Lankan, two Indians, a native Haitian, two Australians, one Brit, a large group of Iraqis and one native of Bangladesh."

What do you find most interesting/charming about Iraqi culture?: "The warmth and friendliness of the people," he said. "They are wonderful hosts."

- Karen McCowan

If you know someone who would make a great subject for a Register-Guard Profile, send it to Jim Murez at jmurez@guardnet.com or P.O. Box 10188, Eugene, OR 97440.

CAPTION(S):

Wes Hare (center) and colleagues Lloyd Mendez and Tom Potocki have worked on improving the road and water supply of a village of displaced Marsh Arabs near Karbala, Iraq. Wes Hare (center) and colleagues Lloyd Mendez and Tom Potocki have worked on improving the road and water supply of a village of displaced Marsh Arabs near Karbala, Iraq.
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Title Annotation:General News; Wes Hare is helping Kabala residents restore their municipal services
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 25, 2004
Words:635
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