Retired truck driver takes wheel as Aberdeen mayor

New Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave learned to fix things from his dad. He renovated the whole house he lives in now, including the foundation, structure, plumbing, electrical and new windows, he said. Schave will take on a bigger job, fixing city-wide issues, when he takes office officially on Jan. 1.

“When I see something that needs to be fixed, I fix it,” said Schave.

“If I don’t know how to do something, I find somebody who does,” he added.

Schave grew up on Grays Harbor. He graduated from Wishkah Valley High School and played sports. A second baseman from youth baseball through high school, he also played football, ran track and by his own admission, wasn’t much good at basketball.

“I even pole vaulted a little bit if you can believe it,” he said.

Wishkah Valley only had 11 players and played seven-on-seven football. He said they had one game against a team that insisted on playing 11-on-11, so all the Wishkah Valley players had to play the whole game. Schave played fullback and middle linebacker.

“We were a little sore and tired after that game. Everyone slept on the bus,” he said smiling.

In those days, Schave rode a little Honda 50 from his house on 7th Street in Hoquiam more than 15 miles to the Wishkah Valley school and back home after school or practice. He was on the student council, was president of the lettermen’s club, student class president, and he had a girlfriend named Bunny. Pete and Bunny are still together and have four adult children and 11 grandchildren now.

In the early ’70s, jobs were plentiful on Grays Harbor and like a lot of young people, he began working right away. Schave recalls graduating from Wishkah Valley on a Friday and starting work as a wash boy at Bigelow Chevrolet the next Monday. “We’d wash the trade-ins before they were detailed,” he said. Jack Bigelow was a mentor and father figure to him, he added.

He moved up at Bigelow from wash boy to detailing and was a painting apprentice before he decided he’d rather work outdoors and took a job building logging roads, he said. Schave said he liked the fresh air more than being stuck in a room full of paint fumes. He enjoyed working with the machinery to move logs and wasn’t afraid to walk down muddy slopes with a chainsaw as the job sometimes required. He was willing to do whatever it took to build logging roads, even when it meant finding a new way of doing things, he said.

Schave found a way to remove a dump truck bed and convert the truck so it could tow a trailer in about 20 minutes. That way, his road building team could use the truck to bring their heavy equipment out to job sites. When they needed a dump truck, he could quickly switch it back.

“That was something different that nobody else had,” he said.

With the money he earned building roads and later hauling logs on them, Schave got into hot rods. He doesn’t have much time to wrench on cars now, so he sold his last one in 2017. It was an old right-hand drive postal jeep that he put a 4.3 liter V6 in with a modified camshaft, headers, intake manifold and a Holley four-barrel carburetor, he said.

“That thing was scary. It was a rollover waiting to happen,” he said.

But it was still easy to sell, “There were people that had to have it,” he said.

Schave’s favorite car was a 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury. He let Bunny drive it to her advertising sales job at The Daily World until he thought better of that and bought her a brand new Ford Pinto Wagon.

Schave would build logging roads during the day, meet Bunny for pizza after work and then moonlight, driving a log truck on the swing shift, he said. Eventually he moved up to hauling logs full time. Later, he drove trucks all over the West.

“I liked Utah the best. The roads and scenery are really nice out there,” he said.

He also worked as a driver trainer for a while. He said it was hard to stay awake while somebody else did all the driving. They drove “condos”, big rigs that have comfortable living quarters, including a bedroom, he said.

Schave said he’s always thought it was important to do more than what it took to just get by. His first experience with community service was when he was a kid and his parents would volunteer for the Eagles annual picnic. In the late 1980s, Schave helped revive the picnic and dubbed it the “Down Home Old Fashioned Community Celebration Picnic.” Schave has served on the board of the Union Gospel Mission for nearly 30 years now, he said. He’s also vice chairman of the Coastal Community Action Program’s board of directors.

Schave’s first experience in politics came when he lost an election for PUD commissioner. Even though he lost, he felt encouraged that he finished close to an establish candidate. Not long after that, he took his seat on the Aberdeen City Council that he’s held in two stints for a total of 18 years.

Schave said that public safety has always been his number one priority on the council, but that he’s spent a lot of time working on budgets. He said he’s made some bad personal investments over the years and that’s probably led to him being more fiscally conservative these days.

In Schave’s experience on the council, teamwork has been the key to getting things accomplished, he said. Schave praised the council and city staff for their teamwork over the years, adding that the staff has been underpaid for a long time considering how much they go over and above their job descriptions.

Explaining how he balances his self-reliance and the need for teamwork, Schave said it all starts at home.

“My wife and I are a team,” he explained.

“I’m not an expert on everything, but we have those experts here. As mayor, I’ll rely on them. City Council is just a bigger team.”