When a new school opens, it needs “champions” in the community. It needs people to whom it can turn as it builds new traditions, builds new programs, and creates an identity. No school had a better friend, a better supporter, a better champion than West Salem High School. They had Lyle Mordhorst.
Mordhorst was one of the “go to” people for the Titans from the moment West Salem High opened in the fall of 2002. He was one of a cadre of West Salem residents, proud of their new school and what it meant to the community, and willing do what it took to make it successful. In his role as manager of the West Salem Les Schwab Tire Center, Mordhorst worked for a company that encouraged local philanthropy and boy did he take it to heart! There was seemingly no West Salem High school program, group, or team that didn't trek down to the local Les Schwab to seek his support for their activity or event. Bryan Sutherland, former Athletic Director at West Salem recalls cautioning the WSHS staff that “We need to be cautious. Everybody can't go to Lyle for every need. At some point he needs to sell tires!” Willing businesses sometimes refer to “donor fatigue” when they are constantly asked for assistance. If Lyle suffered it, he never showed it. The people of West Salem High – athletics or otherwise - and the west Salem community always found a man willing to do what he could to help. Mordhorst's attitude was always “yes until it was no” as opposed to “no until it was yes”. Much of the success that West Salem High School has experienced was built on the shoulders of Lyle Mordhorst and community members like him.
From Grangeville, Idaho, Mordhorst started his career with Les Schwab in 1983 in Ontario, Oregon. Living in four different communities with his final stop – lucky for Salem – as the manager of the West Salem store in 1998. He has lived in Salem for the past 21 years, “retiring” after 35 years with Les Schwab.
Far from finished serving his community, Mordhorst was asked and then selected to fill a vacancy on the Polk County Board of Commissioners. He accepted and has been serving since January of 2019.
From football to volleyball to wrestling to baseball, Mordhorst supported all Titan athletic programs. It's hard to separate Lyle from the company he worked for but he was more to West Salem High than just a donor or sponsor. It was quite common to see Mordhorst on campus, involved in school projects, participating as a member of a committee, or just dropping by to watch kids compete. When West Salem High opened, somehow missing in the plans for a multi-million dollar building, no gym concession stand was included. Lyle helped coordinate the creation of it. Providing his time and financial resources, the building of what is the current gym concession stand was completed. His donations and work planning and coordinating helped get a replacement artificial turf field for West Salem High. He and his fellow Schwab dealers donated bags and popcorn to be sold at athletic events that allowed for more money for kids. Over the years he has authorized the purchase of many an advertising sign for every athletic venue. And that's not to mention programs like Little League, youth soccer and volleyball, band camps, 4-H, diaper collections, Future Farmers of America, and countless more programs and causes.
Mordhorst was one of the founders of the West Salem High School Education Foundation for which he served as its initial president from 2002-03 – West Salem High's first year. The “Ed Foundation” governs fundraising for all programs at West Salem assuring all programs have the resources they need to succeed and provide students with as many opportunities as possible. “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow”. Mordhorst believes that everything happens when people are willing to give of their time and share their knowledge and finances to provide opportunities for youth. He believes that we do not need good schools, we need great schools. He believes we need to provide kids the opportunities that encourage and prepare them to succeed in life and become contributing citizens in our communities.
Lyle has been married to wife Belinda, whom he met at Grangeville High School, since 1981. They have two sons – Brady and Logan.
Lyle Mordhorst will continually deflect gratitude to others and he is right to do so. But no one is more respected on the west side of the Willamette River for his community involvement. He is a champion in his own right. He is a Beacon.
“The Mayor of West Salem, Believer in our Kids.” Former Salem City Councilman Dan Clem