Alumnus builds civic leadership on engineering degree

By Michelle Fredrickson, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture

Erik-0035ABERDEEN, Wash. – The practical problem-solving Erik Larson learned as a civil engineering student at Washington State University is serving him well in politics. His term as mayor will begin in January in Aberdeen, a small Washington town located about an hour west of Olympia.

“My engineering education has definitely allowed me to be more involved in planning and decision making, which I believe will reduce miscommunication and delays,” Larson said. Specifically he mentioned the benefits of the engineering economics course at WSU.

Investment, infrastructure

“Aberdeen has been going through tough economic times most of my life, and I felt that the town was not making the right investments in our future,” he explained. “Eventually, I decided the best way to change the direction the city was headed was to get involved.”

He sees his engineering education as a boon, allowing him to be more integral to infrastructure planning projects.

A major flood retention and community development project in partnership with the neighboring city of Hoquiam is in the initial planning stages. In the end, it will reduce flood insurance rates, improve property values and improve the community’s access to the waterfront.

“It will be an enormous first step toward an economically healthy and sustainable Aberdeen,” Larson said.

At WSU, Larson was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and was active in the Steel Bridge Club: “Looking back, I think I did as much learning outside of the classroom as I did inside,” he said.

Home town attraction

He seeks to make Aberdeen more appealing for young adults and hopes to encourage that demographic to return home like he did.

“It is a small community where everyone knows each other and you just feel at home, but not so small that you feel disconnected from the world,” he said.

He added that Aberdeen is close to the ocean, the Olympic National Park rainforest and miles of timberland, making it a good spot for recreational activities.

“I personally love being able to hunt and fish on the weekends and still make it home in time to clean up and head downtown for a beer and some Cougar football,” he said.