Get to know local Community Council at two April socials

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The Community Council will host two spring socials in April to help acquaint are residents with the regional issues being tackled by the organization.

The nonpartisan group formed in 2008 as a way to inspire citizen-driven, consensus-based problem-solving to regional growth, change and challenges tackles issues with an intricate study process. Previous issues have included the Valley's gang problem; developing value-added agricultural businesses; and educational improvements.

The group's geographic focus is the area between Burbank and Dayton, from the Snake River to Milton-Freewater. Ideas can be submitted for study from local citizens, who are also invited to participate in the process.

April's social events are designed to introduce the concept of the Council to those in the community not familiar with it. Status of activities and the organization's role in facilitating community improvement are also the focus of the meetings, as are fundraisers to support its mission.

The socials will take place April 12 and 17. They'll run 5:30-7 p.m. The first will take place at Nine Trees Inn, 416 S. Elizabeth St., Milton-Freewater. Tickets are $25 per person. Wines donated by local wineries and appetizers will be featured.

The second social will take place at Foundry Vineyards, 13th Avenue and Abadie Street, Walla Walla. Tickets for that are $30 per person. The event will include wines from Foundry Vineyards, hors d'oeuvres, artwork, and jazz by Tom Simon and Walla Walla Community College musicians.

Tickets must be purchased in advance, and are available from Community Council board members or through the office at 529-0119. For more info, visit wwcommunitycouncil.org.

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Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen owner and chef Chris Ainsworth didn't make the cut of finalists for the James Beard Foundation Awards, but he and wife and business co-owner, Island Ainsworth, have plenty to celebrate this year.

Ainsworth had his fourth consecutive nomination as a semi-finalist for the Beard Foundation's Best Chef in the Northwest Award in February. The list of five finalists was released this week. For the Northwest region, it includes: Matt Dillon of Sitka amp; Spruce, Seattle; Jason Franey, Canlis, Seattle; Christopher Israel, Gruner, Portland; Naomi Pomeroy, Beast, Portland; and Cathy Whims, Nostrana, Portland.

In an email to Saffron's extended "family and friends," the Ainsworths expressed their appreciation to customers, vendors, staff and others who support the business. "We are grateful for your support and unconditional love," Island wrote. "You believe in our product and, most importantly, in us."

She said the restaurant will celebrate its fifth anniversary in May. In a Facebook post Wednesday, proprietors also hinted that Saffron may be participating in an upcoming field dinner as a tribute to farmers.

The email went on to list employees who make up Saffron's "dream team" and to congratulate the James Beard finalists. "We are humbled to be considered amongst these great chefs," the email said. "If you have not had the opportunity to dine at any of their respected establishments -- we strongly suggest doing so!"

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Key Technology has promoted longtime employee Steve Pellegrino to vice president of sales.

In his new role he will lead the growth of the Walla Walla manufacturer's sales in North America, South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. His specific job will be to plan and manage the regional and inside sales activities that bring Key's automated inspection, specialized conveying and product preparation systems to the market, according to an announcement.

A 12-year employee, Pellegrino has held several sales management positions, in which he has demonstrated the leadership to manage Key's sales regions, said Executive Vice President and chief operating officer/chief financial officer Jack Ehren, in a prepared statement.

Pellegrino most recently served as senior director of U.S. and Canada sales. Before joining the company in 2000 he spent 20 years at FMC Corp. in that company's Food Handling Equipment operations. He has a bachelor's in marketing from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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