1. Xan Augerot, Benton County Commissioner, Position II
2017 County Commissioner Xan Augerot tops our “Most Impactful” list this year for obvious reasons. Formerly on the Marys River Watershed Council, Augerot ran for the Benton County commission starting in February, and ultimately unseated a four-term, same-party incumbent in the primary, Jay Dixon.
Augerot thinks warmly of Dixon’s 16 years on the commission. “I think that Jay Dixon did a fine job as commissioner, and one of the things he really brought to the commission was a more fiscally conservative voice, making sure that the county didn’t commit itself to things it couldn’t afford.”
Determined to get to work on the county’s most vulnerable issues, Augerot is looking forward to cultivating infrastructure “that will serve us for the next 20 years on a rolling basis,” bringing a focus on sustainable practices to the commission.
“A main reason I chose to run is because I want to make sure that we maintain both our environmental quality and the quality of the Benton County services as we face the twin pressures of population growth and climate change, and I think that resonates really well with people here.” Augerot’s platform is very much attuned to the values of Corvallis and neighboring cities. Her main focuses in the near term include water resources, criminal justice, and housing and homelessness issues, as well as developing “a solid strategic plan or vision for the county, and making sure the county budget is tied to that vision.” Augerot refers to Benton County’s 2040 Thriving Communities Initiative, aimed at addressing delicate long-term issues.
Augerot plans to ensure “adequate water for residential, municipal and agricultural uses, and instream uses for fish and wildlife.”
She also looks forward to a criminal justice assessment, and says the commission is “looking at the whole spectrum”—assessing ties to homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse, how people are treated in the county court system, “and how that whole spectrum of services that are provided by the county and nonprofits and for-profit people interact to provide public safety.”
Augerot is looking forward to working alongside commissioner Anne Schuster on affordable or workforce housing and related issues of homelessness. Schuster anticipates that the three-woman-led commission—including Anabelle Jarmillo—will be “quite a force,” and thinks Augerot “will provide fresh direction into County functions.”
“[Augerot] is very smart, capable, and insightful. She has done her homework and should be able to step into the role of Commissioner seamlessly,” Schuster continued.
Schuster and Augerot share an interest in representing all of Benton County, including rural voices. “Values and political beliefs are pretty different when you get outside of Corvallis, and I think everyone deserves to be heard,” said Augerot. “I have to say that my campaign platform was energetic new leadership and I do plan on being out in the community, engaging with people, as many different people as I can in the community.”
Augerot hopes to attract younger leadership to the county, as the baby boomer generation holding office is hitting retirement age. “I believe that I am a bridge… a transition to younger leadership.”
When she’s not acting as superwoman, Augerot spends her time reading. She’s involved in the SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) program, and reads to kindergarteners once a week—she also enjoys travelling, dancing, and gardening. Her son, husband, and black lab Dazy are her major supporters.
Benton County’s 2040 Thriving Communities is currently looking for citizen input. All are encouraged to get involved and get informed by visiting https://www.co.benton.or.us/
2. Dan Rayfield and Blair Bobier, State Representative & Attorney at Law
Thanks to State Representative Dan Rayfield and local attorney Blair Bobier, Benton County will become the first Oregon jurisdiction to implement ranked-choice voting. The voting method allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and if no candidate has a majority after the first tally, voters’ whose first-choice candidate is eliminated get their second-choice candidate counted instead.
Rayfield and Bobier ran a thorough campaign for the ranked-choice ballot measure, which they co-wrote, speaking at local events and to the media, creating a website, and doing direct voter outreach.
“We’d like to set an example in Benton County for the rest of the state,” Bobier said.
Apparently, voters agreed—the measure passed, 23,143 to 19,573.
3. Nancy Wyse, City Council Member
From community service to city council, Nancy Wyse has had a lifelong interest in helping others. This, combined with speaking to roughly 1,300 residences in her ward, attributed to Wyse’s win, overthrowing an incumbent, as City Council member of Ward 6.
Wyse’s civic passion developed greatly while raising her children. Now that they are more independent, she is able to work within the community. Wyse’s goals for her City Council seat are to expand community involvement within government, help resolve homelessness issues, and keep an overall open mind on city council matters. Wyse will be working with other community members on the up and coming Walk for Peace event taking place on New Year’s Day (2017) in Corvallis.
4. Hyatt Lytle, Charlyn Ellis, Mark Page (tied), City Council Seat Winners
Hyatt Lytle has devoted her life to social justice, aiding her in an inspiring win as City Council member of Ward 3 in Corvallis this year. Born and raised in Corvallis, Lytle has been a contributing member of the community with an eagerness to know any and all information before deciding her position on city issues. Her passions include, but are not limited to, South Town development, homelessness solutions, and emergency preparedness. With her new title, Lytle will bring government information and better outreach for the community.
“I will ensure to do everything I can to help represent and/or resonate the constituents’ voice,” said Lytle.
City Councilor elect Charlyn Ellis believes first we must listen and gather information. Then, after we know as much as we can, we act. Ellis spent the last 20 years listening, learning, and living in Corvallis Ward 5. So, when a city council position was open, she answered the call to act.
Ellis sees housing as a serious topic that needs discussion, not only on behalf of low-income residents, but especially on behalf of Corvallis’ homeless. As a high school teacher, Ellis surely is not afraid to carry on having difficult conversations for as long as it takes to solve the problem at hand.
Newly elected City Council member Mark Page wants to see a sustainable, inclusive Corvallis. More than just words that make for a good soundbite, Page’s vision to achieve these admirable goals is rooted in business management, a degree in finance, and creating easy-to-track metrics on our most terminally vague projects.
Page encourages development of low- to mid-income affordable housing which will result in “a more vibrant and inclusive community.”
“Just as it’s important to make Corvallis environmentally sustainable, we also need to make city services fiscally stable,” said Page.
Page has already been spotted attending the City Council meetings and taking notes, even before he’s required to sit behind the desk.
5. Ryan Noss, Corvallis School District Superintendent
Putting the super back into Corvallis School District Superintendent, Ryan Noss stepped into the position following Erin Prince’s exit on July 1. Noss had worked in the district the previous year as the Director of Teaching and Learning, and was able to shadow Prince before she departed. That experience helped turn a potentially rocky transition into a seamless continuation of policies that work. Corvallis’ schools score consistently higher than the state average. With Noss in charge, there’s no reason to expect that to change.
6. Charlie Ringo, CJ Holdings
Charlie Ringo, owner of CJ Holdings Inc., was the plaintiff in a lawsuit this year that ultimately decided the fate of Corvallis Housing First’s downtown men’s cold weather shelter. The lawsuit was filed this June and settled that Corvallis Housing First would not be operating the shelter in its downtown location following this year’s operation. Given the city’s attempts to adopt a new plan and location for a men’s cold weather shelter failed earlier this fall, Ringo’s lawsuit will prove a catalyst for a new 2017-‘18 shelter program.
7. Helen Higgins, CEO, Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis
With her go-getter attitude, CEO Helen Higgins has helped make considerable strides for the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis. As of Dec. 9, the BGCC hit construction funds for the anticipated Center for Youth Excellence, which will provide mental health access, career exploration, and job skills development to county youth.
Construction for the building will begin after partner Trillium Family Services secures a second-floor wellness clinic space. Having reached their goal of $4.4 million, the BGCC is working to raise another $4 million for staffing and building maintenance, “a very important component of our overall strategy for this permanent center, since the club survives primarily on donations and grants,” explained Higgins.
The BGCC hopes to break ground in May or June of 2017, and Higgins enlists the help of local citizens to testify and encourage City participation, “by either waiving the SDC fees, or making a contribution through the just voted on construction fee/tax that was passed to support low-income housing.” Given her ongoing support of local youth and goal to end generational poverty, it’s only fair we lend a little advocacy.
8. Kim Scott, President and CEO, Trillium Family Services
As president and CEO of Trillium Family Services, the company managing the Children’s Farm Home, Kim Scott plays a vital role in the conversation around mental health in Oregon. He has been working in childcare for over 30 years, and took part in launching the Keep Oregon Well campaign, dedicated to reducing stigma around mental health. Scott’s commitment through Trillium to inclusive and trauma-informed practices for improving mental and behavioral health continue to have a long-lasting impact on the community.
9. Larry Mullins, President and CEO of Samaritan Health Services
Through a new expansion project, Larry Mullins plans to provide a holistic approach to healthcare for Corvallis residents. Samaritan Health Services will be expanding its medical facilities by providing more specialty, outpatient, and mental health services, as well as parking. In addition, Mullins plans to use the 84 acres of land to develop affordable housing and programs that focus on lifestyle changes, wellness, and fitness. These developments will certainly lead to a healthier community.
Bill Ripple of the OSU Forestry Department landed himself on the impactful list by making waves in the sciences. Well, more like tropic cascades; Ripple studies the predator-prey relationship and its effect on the environment.
He struck it big in the 90s with a breakthrough discovery in Yellowstone. After identifying the link between higher populations of wolves and healthier vegetation, light was shed on the process of top-down control. Ripple would test this observation across the country, then across the world with collaborative studies.
He humbly said, “I’m curious and really like searching for answers, and at the same time I really want to do my part and help society.”
Ripple now has directed his energies towards generating stronger conservation movements to save top predators and megafauna worldwide.
Corvallis’ Most Impactful People You Don’t Know About
1. Andrew Millison, Permaculture Instructor, Oregon State University
Millison lives life in the intersection between community, environment, and agriculture, while teaching others from around the world how to do the same.
As an instructor of permaculture through OSU and co-owner of one of the first truly international permaculture design firms, Permaculture International, Millison fosters the spread of healthy food, environmental stewardship, and a love of people.
His influence can be seen from arid Arizona to the volcanic islands of Hawaii, but the easiest way to catch a glimpse of Millison’s perma-presence is to ride a bike around South Corvallis where he resides.
2. Ty Pos, Social Services Director, Community Outreach Inc.
Ty Pos is Social Services Director at Community Outreach Inc. here in Corvallis. He organizes COI’s Good to Go program, a veterans’ group that started in 2013. Local veterans help each other achieve their individual goals finding housing, comradery, employment, and day-to-day logistical support. Together with other programs and staff at COI, Pos works to help make a meaningful difference for local low-income individuals and families in an ever growing list of ways.
3. Ron Georg , Corvallis Bicycle Collective
Ron Georg is Shop Czar of the Corvallis Bicycle Collective. If for whatever reason you aren’t as pedal-driven a human as you’d like to be, CBC’s got your back—tools and knowhow are freely available along with friendly priced bikes.
Georg’s community cycling advocacy and regular social media posts provide a steady cadence to many Corvallis cyclists you might not have seen when you made that last right-hand turn. As more riders reclaim local roads as public spaces, Georg works on behalf of those who chose people-powered solutions.
4. Bruce Burris, Director, CEI Artworks
Director of downtown Corvallis’ CEI Artworks Bruce Burris is well-known in the arts community for not only his efforts to foster the potential of outsider artists with disabilities, but as a central figure among emerging local artists who crave space to exhibit diverse work without pretense. Burris’ open mind towards both art and people has had a significant, positive role in the growth of our downtown arts community, as well as the artists that inhabit it.
5. Copper Gutter Properties LLC
Local breakfast staple Sunnyside Up Café closed its doors for good this summer. The building is owned by Copper Gutter Properties LLC, and co-managed by Gary Feuerstein and David Livingston.
“Gary sent me a letter that I got on July 6 saying I had 30 days to get out,” said Jon Gold, owner of Sunnyside Up. “The letter did not even include Gary’s phone number; I had to send him an email to ask him to call me.”
Benny’s Donuts, which had previously operated out of Sunnyside Up’s kitchen, has since occupied the downtown location at 116 NW 3rd Street.
6. Jennifer Moreland, Corvallis Mural Project
For elevating our downtown alleyways to works of art, Jennifer Moreland has made the list. As the creator of the Downtown Corvallis Mural Project, Moreland facilitated the painting of two fantastic murals earlier this year. Seriously, go check them out behind the downtown American Dream Pizza.
Moreland plans to continue doing what she can to help make art a part of everyone’s day. She said, “Street art is accessible to anyone. It’s not hidden away in a museum or gallery.”
7. Peter Weinstein and Oli Oldaker, Ecstatic Dance Corvallis
In less than a year, Peter Weinstein and Oli Oldaker have built a loyal following for their weekly Ecstatic Dance events. Held in the Methodist Church’s Community Center, these spiritual dances feature Weinstein and other professional DJs and emphasize free-form movement rather than prescribed steps.
“Dancing free-form can be a very emotional, vulnerable, and intimate act,” Weinstein said. “When you practice that week after week with the same people it becomes an emotionally connected tribe of people.”
About 50 people regularly attend each event, and the “Ecstatic Dance Corvallis Tribe” has more than 300 members on Facebook. Clearly, Corvallis was ready for this kind of connection.
8. Jennifer Lommers, Studio262 Closure
Over the last few years we’ve gone from a collection of satellite art spaces to having a popular arts walk with a number of destinations and new work to enjoy each month. Jennifer Lommers’ Studio 262, though it will be gone as of this coming Jan. 15, has acted as both the central hub for the Corvallis Arts Walk as well as home to countless exhibits of local art. While it won’t be the same around here without 262, the impact that Lommers’ business had on attitudes towards local art will be felt for years to come.
9. Alex Seebeck, Good Samaritan (not the hospital)
If you’re lucky enough to cross paths with this kind sir, your luck is sure to grow. Alex Seebeck’s been spotted at places like Harrison’s Bar & Grill, gifting laminated four-, five-and six-leaf clovers to strangers at random.
Seebeck started gathering clovers a few years back, when he worked for the Oregon Department of Forestry, and suspects he’s given away close to 1,000 already—“hundreds and hundreds at least.”
“Lots of the time I just want to show people that they are awesome and hand them a clover, wish them a good night, and continue on my way,” said Seebeck, proving that small acts of kindness thrive, even in these weird times.