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Robin Risley joins Cannon Beach City Council

The Cannon Beach City Council welcomed its newest member Tuesday night, swearing in Robin Risley, who is filling the seat left by former City Councilor George Vetter.

Robin Risley and incumbent Mike Benefield, who was also sworn in Tuesday, prevailed in the general election for two open seats last November, both narrowly defeating hotelier Greg Swedenborg. Mayor Sam Steidel, who ran unopposed, was also sworn in for a second term.

Vetter, taking to the podium as a resident instead of a seat up on the diocese for the first time since leaving the council, took his public comment to thank the council and city staff for a good experience as a councilor.

“And remember, don’t be afraid to voice a minority opinion,” Vetter added as parting advice.

The new council also appointed Barb Knop and Clay Newton to the planning commission, filling seats left by Risley, now serving on the council, and Bob Lundy, who termed out after serving eight years on the commission.

Knop is a longtime resident who has served on multiple committees, including Parks and Community Services and the Farmer’s Market Committee, as well as on the board of the Cannon Beach Academy and Cannon Beach Food Bank.

Newton is a real estate broker and part time resident in Cannon Beach who has been a vocal member of Friends of the Dunes at Cannon Beach, a group that opposes grading dunes for views, a topic that dominated discussion on the planning commission last year.

Former Portland fire chief named emergency manager in Cannon Beach

Mike Myers, the former Portland fire chief, will be Cannon Beach’s first emergency manager.

The announcement came hours after news of Myers resignation broke Thursday, Jan. 3, in Portland. He joined Portland Fire & Rescue in July 2016 and was heralded for bringing modern business practices to the fire department.

“I thank the employees of Portland Fire & Rescue for their hard work and support during my time here. This is a personal decision on my part. I love the coast and my wife has already moved there and it is my strong desire to join her,” Myers said in a statement.

KATU/The Daily Astorian  

Mike Myers, the former fire chief in Portland, is heading to the coast for a new emergency management job in Cannon Beach.

Myers has long had a passion for emergency management, starting with writing emergency medical plans in Las Vegas, where he was the fire chief for more than 26 years.

“Those were some of the best times of my career. I like working with community members ... writing consequence plans,” he said in an interview. “I think I can really help the community of Cannon Beach.”

While Myers saw the job in Cannon Beach when it was first posted six months ago, it “didn’t feel like the right time” to apply, he said. After being enamored with the beauty of the Oregon Coast, he and his wife decided a couple of months ago to buy a home in Gearhart. A few weeks later, he checked to see if the position was still open, found that it was, and submitted an application.

He was offered the job earlier this week.

Myers said Cannon Beach, like many coastal towns, faces “sizable challenges related to potential natural disasters. I’m looking forward to helping the community build resilient and sustainable plans to protect residents and visitors alike.”

The timing, however, raised some eyebrows in Portland. Myers announced his resignation the day after his new boss, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, was sworn into office.

Myers said the move has nothing to do with Hardesty, and the timing was a coincidence.

“It has nothing to do with her. She’s going to be awesome for the bureau,” he said. “It’s all about lifestyle change. It’s such a unique opportunity. There are not a lot of emergency management opportunities on the coast.”

Myers was known for his “Blueprint for Success” plan in Portland, which aimed to equip the city’s firefighters with more skills to respond effectively to health emergencies like overdoses and mental health crises — calls that have become increasingly more common.

He was also recognized for hiring the department’s first equity manager and for doing a complete revision to the employee discipline process.

Cannon Beach created the full-time emergency manager position to restructure the way the city approaches emergency planning. The city had previously contracted with consultant Stacy Burr for emergency planning.

“He’s extremely qualified and he’s excited about what we’re trying to do, and that’s to develop an emergency management program that involves everyone in the city,” City Manager Bruce St. Denis said.

His first day will be Feb. 1.

“I think Cannon Beach needs a comprehensive plan, and that starts with me meeting with the community and seeing what the needs are,” Myers said. “My ultimate goal is for Cannon Beach to be the gold standard for coastal community resiliency. I think we can do that.”

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Mi Corazon comes to Cannon Beach

Mi Corazón, the newest restaurant in Cannon Beach, promises to be a visual banquet for art lovers as well as a satisfying culinary experience for those hungry for Central Mexican cuisine.

The restaurant, which celebrated its grand opening the evening of Jan. 10, draws its aesthetic appeal from hand-crafted tables, glass chandeliers designed with upcycled materials, vivid paintings, hand-carved Milagros from Mexico, and other customized décor.

“We really want people to feel like they’re in Mexico,” said Emiliano Alvarez, who owns and operates the restaurant alongside Enrique Monrroy.

Disappointed with the clichéd décor — such as sombreros, ponchos and mustachioed mascots — often employed at other Mexican restaurants, Alvarez and Monrroy sought to create a dining establishment with an authentic representation.

“You will see more art than anything else,” Alvarez said. “You don’t see those clichéd things you see here (in the U.S.). We just want to show people the real way we have Mexican.”

The two men have long possessed a dream to open a Mexican restaurant in the community they love. They both have roots in the local restaurant industry: Alvarez worked several years at the Lazy Susan Café and Monrroy worked his way from dishwasher to breakfast cook at the Stephanie Inn.

They opened a restaurant in Warrenton about four years ago, but still hoped to eventually find a location closer to home. According to Alvarez, they also were determined, “If we’re going to open a restaurant, it doesn’t matter how long it takes us, we have to be in downtown.”

“We feel like it’s worth it,” he said, adding they passed up other locations in Tolovana. “We’ve been waiting for this for so many years.”

Their patience paid off when, about a year ago, they found the ideal spot. Fruffles vacated the building at 140 S. Hemlock, Five Zero Trees took part of the space for a cannabis store and Alvarez and Monrroy jumped on the other half, which included an upstairs space for Alvarez to rent and use for a salon.

The building needed plumbing, electricity, and restrooms — everything to transform it into a restaurant — but they could not be deterred. In February, they closed the restaurant in Warrenton, eliminating the commute and freeing themselves up to run the salon, which opened in March and where Monrroy is a makeup artist, and more importantly, focus on the new restaurant.

Their journey during the past year has not been without challenges, mostly professional, but also personal. Their friend and partner Claudia Salgado, a Cannon Beach resident, traumatically passed away July 8 in a car wreck near Salem.

“It’s been hard for us, because we were a team of three,” Alvarez said. “She wasn’t really an employee. She was part of the family.”

She was Monrroy’s de facto right-hand in the kitchen. The men relied on her work ethic and enthusiasm, and they expressed regret she will not see their collective efforts come to fruition. They have planted an herb garden near the restaurant, which doubles as a memorial to Salgado. When they sent a video of the nearly completed interior to her children, they responded that their mother would be proud of what has been created.

All the furniture within the restaurant is customized, except for the chairs. The light fixtures were created by Russ Morgan, who designs upcycled chandeliers and light shades with found objects, wire, and tumbled glass. Local woodcarver Dennis Thomas hand-crafted the tables, which each have a unique shape. Socorro Sanchez-Cantu’s art hangs from the walls, along with hand-crafted Milagros, decorative heart-shaped votive offerings traditionally used to ask for healing in the Catholic Church.

“They’re pretty trendy at this moment, but very traditional, as well,” Alvarez said.

Under Monrroy, the head chef, the restaurant’s menu derives its range of dishes and flavors from Michoacán, a state in Central Mexico. The food will be made from scratch, down to the condiments and tortillas. Even the bar drinks, served on the rocks, will incorporate fresh-pressed ingredients.

They also have made a conscious effort to create an environmentally friendly location. They will not use plastic straws and the to-go boxes are made with recyclable materials.

Sitting inside the restaurant, reflecting on the months of hard work they have poured into it, Monrroy confessed, “there’s a lot of feelings right now.”

“I’m excited and emotional,” he said. “It’s my baby.”

The restaurant will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the off-season and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the summer. For more information, visit the Mi Corazón Facebook page or call 503-436-4074.

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Aya, the man behind the 'mooing' tsunami sirens of Cannon Beach, remembered for his foresight

Alfred Aya Jr., the man behind the design and installation of Cannon Beach’s famous “mooing” tsunami warning sirens, was remembered for his humor, curiosity and foresight.

Aya, who died on Friday, Dec. 21, at 94, lived in Cannon Beach since the mid-1980s. People close to Aya knew him as humorous and outgoing, with an unwavering commitment to promoting emergency preparedness through his role as a board member for the Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian  

Al Aya looked over equipment at the Cannon Beach Fire-Rescue Main Station that controls the tsunami warning system in 2017.

Born on Dec. 11, 1924, Aya was a descendant of the family which founded the Portland-based Honeyman Hardware Co. From a young age, Aya would spend his afternoons after school working at his parent’s shop, doing building projects and disassembling equipment just to learn how to put it back together, Phil Hawley, a longtime friend, recalled.

“He was somebody that had an interest in everything. He had the uncanny ability to think of the most intricate ways of doing things,” Hawley said. “He clearly had that bent of mind.”

As a child, those skills fueled Aya’s sense of humor and propensity for pranking, said Hawley, who knew Aya since elementary school. He remembers one day when Aya figured out how to hook into the school’s bell system and rang the bell early during a physical education class.

“He was just incorrigible until he graduated high school ... until he went into the Army,” Hawley said. “But he was great fun to be around.”

Aya graduated from Gabel Country Day School in 1943 and soon after decided to join the Army. After World War II, Aya attended Stanford University, where he earned his degree in philosophy, but soon after served in the Army again in Stuttgart, Germany, during the postwar Allied occupation of Germany.

In 1953, Aya moved to San Francisco, where he began his career as a researcher and statistician for the Pacific Bell Telephone Co. He continued to serve in the Army Reserve before retiring with the rank of major in 1968.

After more than 30 years, he retired from Pacific Bell in 1984 and moved to Cannon Beach.

Warning system

Aya’s curiosity and inclination to create came to define his local legacy in unexpected ways. Shortly after moving to Oregon, Aya was elected to the fire district’s board, where he led the charge to design and install the famous “mooing” community warning system (COWS) for tsunamis at a time when tsunami danger was not at the forefront of the community’s mind.

In fact, Aya himself voted against funding the system the first time around as a board member.

“It’d been 21 years since the last tsunami in 1964, and at the time it seemed like a waste of money to invest in alarms when these events were so rare,” Aya said in a 2017 interview.

But two days after the vote, Aya remembered seeing a group of children building a sandcastle at the edge of the surf with no adults watching them. The sight made him wonder how these kids would know about a tsunami warning and inspired him to research and discover the threat of a tsunami hitting the Pacific Northwest was much more likely than people assumed at the time.

Rainmar Bartl, who knew Aya both as a friend and colleague on the Planning Commission, remembers him talking about his research and “being ahead of his time” when it came to tsunami preparedness.

“At the time it was kind of revolutionary,” Bartl said.

Before he knew it, Aya became the voice of tsunami preparedness, leading the drive to establish a warning system that was a first of its kind in U.S. and has been used as a model for others down the coast. In the 1990s, Aya led the push to move the town’s fire station out of the tsunami inundation zone on Spruce Street and build the new station at higher elevation at Sunset Boulevard, said Garry Smith, the fire district’s board president, who worked with Aya for years.

“If it hadn’t been for his persistence I’m not sure if (the new fire station) would have happened when it did,” Smith said. “He had the foresight and drive to get things done at the district. He contributed not just to the COWS and the fire station, but to all the projects, whether it had to do with the trucks, the equipment, fundraising ... He was an avid supporter of the fire department.”

Finding humor

But even in something as serious as a tsunami warning system, Aya found a way to incorporate humor. When it came to test the warning system, he worried about how the public would react after hearing the loud alarms over and over for multiple days.

To lighten the mood, Aya decided to use a prerecorded “mooing” sound he found in a BBC sound effects library instead of a regular siren.

“I was emailing with an author friend of mine, who is an archconservative guy, about the problem. As a joke, I thought because the acronym for our system was COWS — for Community Warning System — that maybe we could broadcast a mooing sound,” Aya said in 2017. “He thought it was hilarious, and I figured if someone serious like him thought mooing was funny, maybe less serious people would, too.”

Though Aya retired from the fire district in 2015, his voice is still the one that tells everyone to get to higher ground.

“It’s kind of ironic ... now he’s gone, but his voice is going to live on as the one who tells you to evacuate as long as that system is in place,” Smith said.