Here it is again, folks: The Advocate’s democratically decided list of whom we deem are Corvallis’ Most Impactful persons of 2018. While we know there aren’t enough pages to pay tribute to everyone making influential moves out there, these humans have stuck out to us most.
From social justice activists, business leaders and entrepreneurs, scientists, volunteers, and more, these individuals have influenced significant changes in our community — by influencing group decisions and conversations, and opening doors to greater opportunities (or otherwise). Many of them have earned our great respect and gratitude for their continued efforts in invigorating, uplifting, and spreading awareness and action in our community and beyond.
In making this list, we acknowledge that a person’s influence can have many drivers, and that all change is not created equally.
Think we missed someone? As always, comments and suggestions for our Most Impactful issue can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Suggestions for 2019 should be sent by early November of next year for consideration.
Dr. Bill Ripple
Global Climate Scientist-Advocate, OSU
A professor at OSU and founder of the newly-formed Alliance of World Scientists, Dr. Bill Ripple has made decades of major waves in climate change awareness through his research and findings on humanity’s disruption of our world’s natural predation cycles and ecosystems.
What would later become his legacy, Ripple took root as an ecological researcher studying vegetation loss, including the loss of aspen trees, at Yellowstone National Park over 20 years ago. Surprisingly, he found that the wolves at Yellowstone, which had become as sparse as the aspen, were vital to the park’s cyclical balance of species population and vegetative growth. Without these predators, the ecosystem was out of whack — an imbalance happening in habitats across the globe. Ripple’s research lead to the wolves’ revitalization, and through that the revitalization of Yellowstone’s entire ecosystem.
Through this kind of successful research, Ripple and other world scientists are now able to show the effects of human disruption on predator populations, in link to other human practices causing environmental degradation — to the point of a projected mass extinction event by the end of the century. This data is presented in his two co-authored Scientists’ Warnings to Humanity, one in 1992, and the other just last year, urging global leadership and world citizens to take action against the impending, catastrophic effects of climate change.
“The day we published the scientists’ warning, my life changed,” says Ripple. “I realized that I am no longer just a field researcher, but now also a science and environmental advocate working for the sustainability of life on planet Earth.”
This year, Ripple co-authored another article urging world leaders and government officials to take action against the construction of the US-Mexico border wall, by examining the wall’s ecological devastation to the vegetation and wildlife that has long inhabited the area.
Ripple brings his research to the forefront of local and global awareness, putting on informative presentations, and working on various other projects, including his ongoing collaboration on both a scientists’ warning to humanity book authored by local scientist Nick Houtman, and a documentary film called “The Second Warning” by Oregon State University. The warning paper also lead to the creation of the aforementioned Alliance of World Scientists organization and a global grassroots group, Union of Concerned Citizens (www.scientistswarning.org).
Ripple continues to generate support, evidenced by the 15,364 scientist signatures from 184 countries backing his second world warning, plus the numerous non-scientists reaching out and endorsing the warning each day. “I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the positive and massive response to the scientists’ warning. I can no longer keep up with incoming emails and I have never been busier in my life,” he says.
Spreading awareness all over the world about what we can do as individuals and communities to combat and reverse the effects of climate change may seem like the mother of all uphill battles, but it’s those individuals like Bill Ripple that give us all hope. We at The Advocate view Dr. Ripple and his work as a reflection of where we should all be meeting in the middle, despite an increasingly divisive political climate: as humans who want a diverse, bountiful, and above all, possible, future.
“I would like people to think about and realize the interconnectedness of life in the biosphere,” says Ripple. “By altering the environment and climate, it will likely affect us, potentially causing great human suffering.”
If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Ripple in action, consider attending his upcoming presentation on Jan 17 at the Chintimini Senior Center in Corvallis. The event starts at 7 p.m. His presentation begins at 7:30.
To learn more about the Alliance of World Scientists, visit http://scientistswarning.
— Stevie Beisswanger
Developer, Cold Shelter Owner
The issue of the men’s overnight shelter continues to hang over the city of Corvallis, and among the major players, Rich Carone surely stands out.
As you may know, Carone has been a driving force behind finding a solution for the city’s homeless concerns, most notably having put together a proposal for the men’s shelter to be located near Northeast Walnut Blvd., after a Second Street location was rejected by some local businesses. Like the Second Street plan, his proposal would have also housed Stone Soup and the Daytime Drop-in Center, making multiple services more accessible to the homeless population. Carone’s proposal was a popular solution with some downtown business owners who thought the services would negatively affect their businesses, but also like the Second Street location, was rejected by immediate neighbors.
All was not lost, though. Carone went on to negotiate with the owners of last year’s shelter site, the Hansen’s Tire building in South Corvallis, and wound up buying it for the purpose of leasing it to the shelter. This location is smaller than Carone contemplated for a North Corvallis facility, and is probably unable to house Stone Soup. The Daytime Drop-in Center rejected the South Corvallis location.
Carone has pledged to continue to search for a larger, more sustainable solution for the shelter. Whatever future solutions come, we expect Carone will be a part of it – and we thank him for his contributions to the Corvallis community.
— Jonah Anderson
Founder, K9 Care A Van
Peter Ewald was volunteering at the Corvallis’ overnight shelter a few years ago when he was confronted with a situation all too familiar to him. Someone had shown up with a little, three-legged dog, recalls Ewald, and he was forced by the shelter’s policy to turn either the dog or both away. That moment sticks out to him in recalling why he chose to found K9 Care A Van, a nonprofit organization which seeks to establish a mobile kennel to house and care for the pets of people experiencing homelessness who cannot bring them into services like shelters, medical facilities or job interviews.
Ewald’s history of volunteer service stretches back decades. After meeting his wife at Ohio State University, they traveled abroad to Japan, Korea and Vietnam as part of the American Friends Service Committee, an organization which sent college graduate-age Americans to participate in projects and work camps around the world. They traveled to Vietnam during the American war, where Ewald directed a team of ten volunteers with the Voluntary International Service Assignments, a Friends Service Committee program which served as a model for today’s Peace Corps.
The Friends Service Committee’s mission, according to Ewald, was international understanding.
“My theory is if we all had an experience like that, in another culture, meeting another people, we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems in the world,” he said.
As the chair of the board for K9 Care A Van, Ewald says their chief concern right now is the initial funding for the vehicle that will become their kennel. The Creag Foundation has offered K9 Care A Van a challenge grant, meaning any donations to their organization until the end of the year (up to $10,000) will be matched by Creag.
— Ian MacRonald
Since 2012, downtown-based immigration attorney Yesha Measho has been serving those in Corvallis, Albany, Lebanon, Sweet Home, and Newport seeking asylum, education, or employment in the US, as well as US citizens trying to help their families to gain legal status here. In addition, she works on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) cases.
Since DACA stopped accepting new applications, Measho has experienced an increase in the number of calls she gets from people who want to know how new enforcement rules publicized in the media will impact themselves and their families. In her line of work, it takes both tacit strategy and compassion to best serve her clients as the nation’s climate surrounding immigration changes.
— Ari Blatt
Beloved Son, Writer, Copy Editor
Advocate staffer and all-around wonderful human being Eric Austin passed away on June 27 this year after being struck by a car while biking. Eric was chosen for this issue not just because of the impact he has had on friends, family, and coworkers, but because his passing put a much-needed spotlight on bike safety here in Corvallis, jump-starting conversations about crosswalks and other possible actions citywide.
The cumulative effect of this conversation led the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board to develop new recommendations for improving safety measures for all of Corvallis’ citizens. At The Advocate, we will be watching to see if the city uses the $700,000 grant they received from the Oregon Department of Transportation to reroute a path from Highway 99 to Crystal Lake. We hope the current movement concerning bike safety will get this done sooner rather than later.
At The Advocate, Eric loved to write about our most underrepresented neighbors, and chose to highlight those who were doing good in the community. Like many of us, this is why he was here, and to that end, we feel a kinship. Eric is sorely missed, but not a day passes that his impact isn’t felt by the community and those of us who were lucky enough to call him a friend.
At SW 3 St, where Eric was struck, there is a coffee shop scheduled to go in. We at The Advocate feel that there needs to be additional research put into the viability of this location and how it will affect traffic in a location where there was already a tragedy.
— Jonah Anderson
2018 Mayoral Candidate, Homeless Advocate
This former Corvallis mayoral candidate, and current member of the Downtown Advisory Board, has been an inspiration to all of us here at The Advocate. With her passionate, well-spoken presence and tenacity, Riley Doraine has worked to elevate Corvallis’ most vulnerable population.
Fighting homelessness with outreach and protest is Doraine’s main cup of tea. She was one of the loudest voices in support of the proposed homeless shelter on Second Street this year, which due to opposition from downtown property owners and community members, did not come to fruition.
Doraine has direct experience with homelessness and a lack of healthcare. After securing a somewhat comfortable living situation, she decided the best way to take action was to have a title role in local politics. With education being a main goal in her mayoral campaign, Doraine directed the conversation toward multifaceted factors of homelessness, such as insufficient outreach and inaction. Running for office seemed unthinkable, but Doraine wanted to enlighten others to see their own worth and seek their own voices against systematic oppression. Her choice to take action and speak out all started when she observed how “everyone said they wanted to help, but nobody wanted to listen.”
Doraine’s passion for people extends beyond Corvallis, as she was present during east coast protests of the 2016 Democratic primary election, and also organized efforts in aiding Standing Rock protesters. She strives to make the city of Corvallis a global example of humility, while making affordable housing, anti-fascism, and LGBTQ rights all part of her daily platform.
— Cheyanne Simon
Drag Leader, Community Organizer & Activist
A successful drag performer and head of queer collective Haus of Dharma, Dharma Mirza is one of Corvallis’ most prominent LGBTQ activists. Mirza became outwardly vocal about queer and transgender rights when she moved to Corvallis after leaving her conservative Mormon hometown of Logan, Utah. Not only has Mirza been a pivotal figure in helping to unite the LGBTQ community in Corvallis, but she has also acted as a spokesperson for LGBTQ rights, HIV/AIDS, and sexual assault through her engagement with local media and rallies.
Mirza is notably very open about her experiences with these particular issues and has shared her story with The Advocate as well as The Gazette Times. This summer, she showed her dedication to the local queer community through her work as a co-organizer of the successful Corvallis Pride festival. Dharma Mirza is and will continue to be an important player in the local fight for queer visibility and acceptance.
Notably, Mirza is a mainstay at OSU, where she helps organize the student drag community through on-campus drag shows. You can also catch her totally killing it at drag nights at your favorite local spots, like DeMaggio’s and Bombs Away, as well as at Corvallis’ favorite LGBTQIA+-friendly dance party, Rainbow in the Clouds.
— Maria DeHart
Non-Binary / Queer Activist, Proud Parent
Aside from being a forthright leader in the local Non-binary/Queer community, Brandy Fortson has transcended the private and political spheres of parenting, as they welcome their Childrens’ interests and participation in local activism. Fortson has accompanied their children to peaceful protests and rallies that Fortson’s helped organize locally. As a participant, it is a powerful thing to watch a child march up to both a sheriff and a man in a MAGA hat and demand to know why the LGBTQ+ community is being harassed or as they see it, unprotected. Fortson knows that beyond the voices of angry and oppressed adults, there are children equally as impacted and dying to be heard, with their futures at stake.
Fortson has helped organize multiple local rallies and protests since the inauguration of Donald Trump – most recently an Anti-Fascist rally aligning with the conviction of local White Nationalist Andrew Oswalt. Before that, they helped organize a Trans and Non-Binary Visibility rally in wake of the Trump Administration’s attack on trans rights. Fortson has also been active in Portland and other surrounding area protests. Their other accomplishments include many certifications and dedicated hours as a direct care worker in the mental and behavioral health fields. Fortson has also been an active participant at The Corvallis Advocate’s Storytelling Nights, where they and their children have been open and candid over the joys and hardships they’ve faced as individuals.
“As a parent and community member,” says Fortson, “my intent has always been to make [Corvallis] a place where my children can be proud to grow up. I’m a happy and active member of the DSA, an openly queer and non-binary human, an active parent in the school district, and unabashedly me.”
Fortson says they’ve made it their mission since organizing local rallies to use their privilege to “give a space to those whose voices we need to hear most.” They extend their gratitude for being chosen as one of Corvallis’ Most Impactful persons of 2018 to all who’ve been inspired to reach out and share their stories, publicly and online, with the activist community. “Alone I am weak, but together we are strong,” they say, thanking all who’ve shown support, and looking ahead to 2019.
— Stevie Beisswanger
Grande Ronde Cultural Resources Manager
David Harrelson, the Manager of the Grand Ronde Cultural Resources Department, has greatly increased awareness in the Corvallis community of Kalapuya land use practices, language, oral history, and the history of removal, termination, and restoration with the federal government.
Harrelson first became involved in collaborations with the Marys Peak Group of the Sierra Club in 2016 in their efforts to name Lamprey Creek, a formerly under-recognized tributary to Oak Creek in northwest Corvallis. Harrelson lead a blessing of the creek in association with its naming event, and met Dave Eckert, Program Chair of the Marys Peak Group. From then on, they’ve worked together for two renditions of the Champinefu Lecture Series in the fall of 2017 and 2018. Each series has consisted of three talks to full houses at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Corvallis, with Harrelson presenting once each year.
As the direct descendant of the leader of the Champinefu band of the Kalapuya who was involved in signing treaties with the US about seven generations ago, Harrelson’s connection to the Corvallis area runs deep, and he believes it is important for all the peoples that live here today to understand how indigenous knowledge can serve the landscape and its current inhabitants.
In addition to his impact within Corvallis, Harrelson’s work at the Chachalu Cultural Center in Grand Ronde (about 45 minutes north of Corvallis) is of great value to anyone interested in learning more about the history and culture of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. The museum contains artifacts of the Tribe once held by institutions such as the British Museum. For the last three decades, the Tribe has worked to bring these items back to Grand Ronde to share with all people. Chachalu is open every week, Tuesday-Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is free of charge.
— Ari Blatt
Innovator, Corvallis Foundry
Brad Attig is a man best known for giving life to local nonprofit the Corvallis Foundry. The Foundry’s mission, as stated on its website, is to “help communities develop strong, vibrant, and creative entrepreneurial ecosystems that contribute to improved prosperity and enjoyment of life.”
Just one way the Foundry aids in creating a better business ecosystem is by providing cooperative workspaces for businesses to meet, work, and play, as they host a number of multifaceted networking events. Additionally, educational opportunities are aimed at future success for participating businesses, which is further supported and benefited by community involvement.
The Foundry began as a small coworking place, which under Attig’s leadership, grew to a community-focused collective, when transitioning to a new building early this year. The building includes a shared working space with small desks called the Great Hall, which fosters an environment of shared ideas. There are also larger desks and office space available for rent, while all participating community members have access to two conference rooms, a lounge area, bathrooms, a shower, and a kitchen.
The Foundry’s facility is located in a great spot downtown on 257 SW Madison Ave. Just a hop and a skip from the riverfront, this wonderful community resource is available to anyone and everyone.
— Nick McKeever
Educator; Creative Director, Resilience Project
Kriste York is on a mission to connect us to one another. She’s an English teacher by trade, recently at LBCC and now teaching high school in Siletz, and in her free time, she’s the creative director at the Resilience Project. In August, she helped the project launch an ambitious week-long event aimed at forging personal connections: The Summer Games.
For the games, teams of five assembled and were given a list of about 100 activities to complete for points by posting pictures or short videos of the results online. These tasks largely focused on two of York’s favorite things, telling stories and talking to strangers. If a stranger handed you a poem or asked you to teach them how to play Canasta last August, congratulations. You were a participant in her grand design.
This all may seem unconventionally goofy, but unconventional goofiness is York’s superpower, and she uses it to change people’s lives.
Jennifer Hartsock wanted to participate in the games, but was having trouble putting together a team. She ended up assembling a ragtag group of people she barely knew (as well as her mom) and ended up forging unexpectedly powerful connections.
“These Games, the challenge to do new stuff and invite strangers to play along, interact with and learn about our environment, the people, and the history of our town and community, all lit a fire in me,” wrote Hartsock in her blog. “I walked out of my house every day to meet these acquaintances to complete more challenges, telling myself, ‘This is life. This is truly living.’”
Hartsock ended up becoming close with this group of new friends over the course of the games (they won first place), and they’re still playing to this day. They continue to meet periodically and complete more resilience-building tasks from the list.
For York, strength comes from our ability to connect with others, and we build resilience to negativity through having those connections. Through her work at the Resilience Project, she continues to make Corvallis a more connected and friendlier place. To use her unofficial catch phrase: “How cool is that?”
— Jay Sharpe
Construction Owner, Men’s Cold Weather Shelter Manager
Harry Reich is the proprietor of Harry Reich Construction, a general contractor. He’s also the Manager of the Men’s Cold Weather Shelter. In both jobs, he has achieved success by a simple expedient: he works his butt off. Likewise, he derives his work ethic from the same source: a desire to provide for others.
A Mormon from Utah with a large family of his own, Reich looks beyond his own household to care for the community around him. When the cold-weather shelter downtown closed last year as the result of a lawsuit brought by downtown business owners, other citizens went to work to fill the gap that had suddenly been created. The owner of a defunct tire shop across from the First Alternative Co-Op offered free use of the building for a year, and a consortium was formed to turn it into a habitable shelter under the sponsorship of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. Reich headed up the reconstruction and worked on it, but was also persuaded to take on the permanent job of Manager for the duration of the Shelter’s operation.
Thanks to Reich’s experience with design and construction and the attention he paid to the work on the Shelter, it will be able to house more men and provide them with better services, including bathing and laundry, than the shelter before it did.
— John Burt
In late October of this year, five conservation-oriented non-profit groups announced that they would be working with local contractor Alan Ayres to build their new home on the 400 block of Second Street, called the Confluence. Set to be four stories high with completion in the fall of 2021, the Confluence will be filling in one of the last empty lots on the block, next to Robnett’s Hardware, and will contribute to the ever-modernizing appeal of the southern end of downtown.
In addition to physically impacting the aesthetic of Corvallis, the Confluence will allow the Greenbelt Land Trust, Institute for Applied Ecology, Corvallis Environmental Center, Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation & Development to work more efficiently towards their independent, but often overlapping missions.
While this project is unique in its focus on fostering collaboration between separate organizations, Ayres has long worked towards environmental goals in his prior building developments. He was involved in building Big River Restaurant and Sky High Brewing in downtown Corvallis, as well as the more recently completed Softstar Shoes in Philomath.
In his projects, Ayres incorporates locally grown and milled timber, solar panels, water-efficient plumbing, LED lighting, and efficient heating and cooling units. Even with these same features at the core of his work, Ayres is able to churn out unique structures that add character to wherever they are located. For example, the Softstar Shoes building focused on restoring a former roller rink on Philomath’s Main Street that sat vacant for over two decades before Ayres took it on.
As quoted in The Gazette-Times, Softstar CEO Tricia Salcido said of Ayres: “Alan is not only concerned with beautifully preserving and reinventing historic structures, he’s also a benefactor to local businesses. He’s helped so many businesses flourish, and he sees the big picture — the community, social, and cultural impacts of the projects he takes on.”
— Ari Blatt
Anti-Downtown Shelter Advocate
Downtown property owner Catherine Mater impacted the ultimate outcome of where the local Men’s Cold Weather shelter would reside this year, and possibly for years to come, after vociferously opposing a downtown location. The property would have been the first to combine the shelter’s services with those of the Daytime Drop-in Center and Stone Soup.
Each of the three non-profits preferred the Second Street site, as did The Housing Opportunities Action Coalition Manager that oversees these operations. Mayor Biff Traber also cast a vote in favor of funding the site, breaking a City Council tie on the decision. Many supported this site because the location would have been in proximity to job opportunities and other needed services. Mater maintained the site would degrade the downtown experience, increasing crime, and that other sites would be more appropriate.
A civil engineer with her own firm’s offices downtown, Mater drafted a classic carrot and stick approach. On one hand, she ginned dollars from other downtown property owners to fund alternative sites for the homeless shelter, and on the other, alluded to possibly suing. In the end, the homeless shelter chose to relocate, as did the other organizations.
— Andy Thompson