SV Ecosystem names
Volunteer of the Year

Alan "Pete" Taylor, standing with Brownie Scouts Cascade Parcell, Gwen Rosen, and
Nicole Everson, was honored by the Swan Valley Ecosystem Center.

September 27, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

by Suzanne Vernon

Alan "Pete" Taylor moved to the Swan Valley full-time in 1989 and he's been volunteering here ever since.

"It's how I pay my dues for living here," he said recently. Taylor was named Volunteer of the Year by the Swan Ecosystem Center at Condon and received recognition during July 4th activities in the Swan Valley.

Taylor is best known for his volunteer services as a meetings facilitator and planner, helping local groups conduct productive meetings where all participants have a chance to speak out and understand the meeting objectives.

In June he facilitated a two-day Fire Seminar held at the Swan Ecosystem Center conference room. The meeting was attended by representatives of several statewide organizations and groups involved with wildland fire in the Swan Valley. It was the 264th meeting that Taylor had facilitated for free in the Swan Valley since he retired here in 1989.

Taylor's expertise as a meetings facilitator has benefitted many local groups including the Swan Valley Ad Hoc committee (which focuses on natural resources issues), the Seeley Swan Economic Diversification Team (Action Team), the Swan Ecosystem Center at Condon, and the SSTEP program and Community Council in Seeley Lake.

In addition to helping with meetings, Taylor also volunteers regularly for Meals on Wheels (Swan Valley Senior Services) where he delivers lunches to local residents. He is also helping develop and organize Swan Ecosystem Center's Research Library, housed at the Condon Work Center.

Why so much volunteering?

"I think in a sense, a very real sense, you do have to pay dues. You bring your talents to bear on good things for the community," Taylor explained.

Taylor's knowledge of meetings facilitation grew out of a thirty-year career in forest fire sciences research with the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During the ten years before his retirement in 1989, Taylor focused on making scientific research meaningful to people who work in the forest. He supervised writers, editors and librarians and also created a variety of publications and audio visual tools.

Taylor, who is also a noted artist, retired from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1989 and moved permanently to his cabin in the Swan Valley. He thought he had finally found the time and the place to pursue his second career as a sculptor, focusing on creating images of the natural world around him.

His former professional associates had other plans for him, however. He was soon called back to work, this time as a self-employed meetings facilitator and planner. He created a new business: Win-Win Meetings, headquartered at Condon, and was soon traveling all over the country, facilitating meetings for various agencies and organizations.

In addition to his paid work as a facilitator, as he settled into the Swan Valley community, Taylor also began helping local people address highly controversial issues, especially those related to logging and the environment.

"Some of the early meetings here were volatile. People were throwing snoose cans and threatening violence," he explained.

Taylor knew there was a better way to bring people together. He had seen the process work, many times before and he offered practical advicehints and tipsabout organizing effective meetings. His soft-spoken manner, along with his compassion for working-class people, combined to help him persuade neighbors and friends to give the facilitation process a try.

Thanks to several years of diligent effort, most meetings now conducted in the Condon area are noted for encouraging individuals to listen carefully to all sides. People are given time to speak, ask questions and offer suggestions.

"In a facilitated meeting, people recognize that everybody has something to contribute and add to a meeting without being put down, shouted at, or laughed at," he said.

Taylor understands that people want to be heard. "Everybody should get a chance to talk, and to listen. Then their ideas can be discussed so that everybody understands what's being said," he said. "People like to think that if they want to speak out, they can. Even the bullies are hoping that."

Most people who attend meetings in the Swan Valley now understand what the term "collaborative process" means, and they aren't afraid to speak their minds or share ideas. Taylor deserves a lot of credit for this success.

After conducting more than 800 meetings through his business, and more than 200 for free, Taylor is still impressed at the good things that happen at local meetings. "It still blows me away, the positive things that can come out of this process."