New mayor sails through first meeting

The first Oak Harbor City Council meeting of 2008 was smooth sailing for newly-elected Mayor Jim Slowik.

“This is great,” the mayor exclaimed with a laugh last Wednesday night as the council ticked off agenda items. The meeting lasted an unprecedentedly short one-and-a-half hours, although more combustible issues like the Dillard’s Addition sewer controversy have yet to go before Slowik and the council.

Opening the meeting, Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock swore in the mayor and the three new council members, Rick Almberg, Jim Palmer and Beth Munns. Reflecting on the current political instability in Pakistan following the recent assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the judge underscored the gift Americans share living in a country that enjoys a peaceful transfer of power.

“That’s a wonderful thing about our country,” he said.

Hancock was honored to swear in community members with whom he had shared past experiences, both on professional and social levels. The judge said he did not know Palmer as well as the others, but he was duly impressed with his stellar Major League career. The reference to Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer initiated a wave of laughter in the packed meeting room.

“That was in my younger days,” Palmer replied with a wry smile.

Mel Vance, Almberg’s opponent in the election, congratulated the new mayor and council members. He urged the council to be proactive in dealing with environmental regulations that will be handed down in the near future.

The charmingly irrepressible Helen Chatfield-Weeks stood at the podium and drank in the new faces. Forgoing a “Hip, Hip, Hooray,” the well-known Oak Harbor advocate said she would return in four years and compare their countenances to the ones she studied last week.

Councilman Danny Paggao was once again voted to serve as mayor pro tem, a two-year term he will add to the four years he has already served in that capacity. Council member Sheilah Crider said the city has a 36-year tradition of electing the senior most person in the group to the position.

The Dillard’s Addition sewer controversy began last April when the City Council approved an application for a preliminary latecomer’s agreement submitted by a developer. The document allowed him to install a low-pressure, grinder pump sewer system for the entire neighborhood without first notifying the residents of the system to which they would ultimately be required to connect.

The state auditor’s office is currently investigating the legalities of the city’s actions. Slowik and the council voted to move the agenda item to a later date until the state’s findings have been submitted.

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