Tiny Oregon town just across Idaho line loses mayor, an iconic character

krodine@idahostatesman.comAugust 29, 2013 

Clay Webb was a carpenter, woodworker, volunteer firefighter and former sheriff’s deputy. He also served as mayor of Adrian, Ore., for most of the past three decades.

Webb, 82, died Monday evening, leaving a hole in the riverside town of about 180 along the Snake River just west of Idaho’s border and south of Nyssa.

“He was bigger than life. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do,” said his daughter Shawn Snyder. “He was handy with everything, and he could build anything, and he helped everyone.”

But perhaps Webb’s greatest claim to fame was the same as the tiny town’s: An outhouse on First Street bedecked with flower boxes, a U.S. flag and a sign declaring it Adrian City Hall.

Webb moved the “comfort station” from his property to Adrian’s main drag in the early 1980s. At first some residents thought it was vulgar, but soon it became a community bragging point and drew tourists from across the region and, sometimes, the world.

Snyder said he came up with the idea after the Adrian gas station he ran for about 10 years closed.

“He wanted something to bring attention to the town,” she said. “Once the service station was gone, people would go elsewhere.”

“He made up T-shirts (and hats) that said, ‘I sat in session in Adrian, Ore.,’ and he would sign them,” Snyder said. He drew the outhouse likeness on the logo. “They were real popular.”

An accomplished woodworker, he turned out hundreds of small wooden outhouse replicas and birdhouses.

Adrian was incorporated as a city in 1972, and Webb was one of its first council members. When the first mayor moved elsewhere, council members asked Webb to take on the job. “He was so proud of that town and being mayor,” she said.

Webb was born Clarence E. Webb in Muskogee, Okla., to a long line of carpenters. At a high school in Reno, Nev., he met the woman he’d spend the rest of his life with. Clay and Mickey Webb married in 1949 when they were 18. They would have celebrated their 64th anniversary Aug. 30, Snyder said.

Snyder is the youngest of the couple’s four children. The others are sons Chris and Rory Webb and daughter Kim Webb.

The family moved up to Malheur County’s Lake Owyhee and later to Adrian, where they settled in the 1960s.

Webb had been battling cancer for the past couple of years and recently had a number of health complications, including West Nile Disease, that landed him in an Ontario care center in June. He remained there until his death, she said.

City Council members will check the vote tallies from the most recent city election to choose a new member, then select one of the existing council members to take over as mayor, Councilman Keith Baldwin said.

“He was good for the city, and we’re going to miss him,” Baldwin said.

Arrangements for a memorial service have not yet been set.

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Kristin Rodine: 377-6447

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