Staff Spotlight: Samm Newton

People often ask me why I choose to work at the Corvallis Environmental Center (CEC). My answer is always the same; place. The impact that one’s place can have is a strong one. Place, in all it’s meanings, has deeply affected my health, attitudes, relationships, knowledge and behavior. It stays with you your whole life.

The town I grew up in is nothing like Corvallis. I remember it with fond nostalgia, but also relief. The skyline of that small coastal town is lined with smokestacks, industrial piping shooting up towards the clouds and fires burning in the sky for days on end. It’s a place where I wasn’t allowed to swim in the rivers and had to run inside to avoid acid rain. There were no community gardens, chickens, solar panels, hybrid cars or local trails to get lost on. The community I remember as a child didn’t have an active role in improving any of those conditions and I grew up thinking that was the norm.

Since I’ve planted my feet in the WIllamette Valley I’ve been able to see what can happen when truly passionate people come together with a common goal. I’ve had the opportunity to educate, engage and inspire a whole town to take ownership over what they want their home to look like and create their own sense of place.

Our actions send ripples out into the world. And if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere. The methods we are using to create our unique community are proven, repeatable and can help change the lives of not only local residents, but of many more communities. They can even change the life of a child living in the shadow of the chemical industry. I would know because this community has changed my life, and given me a new sense of place.

There are so many reasons why Corvallis is considered a great community. It’s a place filled with people who are passionate about the outdoors, local agriculture and environmental activism. For the past twenty years the CEC has been working to ensure that our home continues to be a place where people can engage those passions and are inspired to create a better future themselves and others. This work means so much to me, and I want you to be a part of it.


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