Dudley challenges Slowik for mayor
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
March 4, 2011 · Updated 2:09 PM
Months of speculation were validated this week when Oak Harbor City Councilman Scott Dudley formally announced his candidacy for the mayor’s seat in the November general election.
The position is nonpartisan and carries a four-year term. The job pays $51,408 a year and is currently held by Jim Slowik. Elected in 2007, his term expires at the end of this year.
Slowik said he has not yet decided whether he will seek to retain the position.
Dudley, a self-disclosed Republican elected in 2009, announced his candidacy for mayor in a meeting at the Whidbey News-Times Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the ground breaking ceremony for the SE Pioneer Way improvement project.
A longtime critic of the one-way plan, Dudley said he chose not to attend the ceremony in protest of the project as it is being carried forward against the will of most downtown business owners. He believes the $8.35 million budgeted project is a mistake and will hinder rather than encourage economic development in Oak Harbor.
“I’m still trying to understand the vision behind it,” Dudley said.
However, while Dudley has been adamantly opposed to the one-way configuration and has used it as a constant source of political ammunition against Slowik, he confirmed that he is prepared to invest even more city resources into the downtown area should he be elected mayor.
The public will already be “stuck” with the one-way configuration so he said it will be prudent to make sure gamble pays off. Public restrooms and a gateway at the intersection of Highway 20 and SE Pioneer Way could be possible future projects, he said.
Dudley envisions changes to the city’s controversial standing committee policies as well. For starters, he said they need to be held at more convenient times and at City Hall so they can be televised. They are currently spread across town with some starting as early as 7 a.m.
The city’s standing committee policies came under fire this past year when they were challenged by both the Whidbey News-Times and state officials. The Office of the Attorney General would later issue an opinion saying the policies don’t comply with the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.
Dudley says part of the blame lies with city staff, as the city council relied heavily on their counsel. If elected, he confirmed that a thorough review of all department heads would be conducted.
The June filing period is still months away and Slowik said he has yet to make any decisions. While not opposed to running, he’s 62 years old and being mayor is no easy job. A mayor’s whole life becomes public and that can be hard on the whole family, he said.
“It’s more than just a ‘me decision,’” Slowik said.
He questioned Dudley’s assertions that the Pioneer Way project is being carried forward against public opinion. While downtown business owners may have had the loudest voices, they aren’t the only ones weighting in. He claims that he regularly receives support from the community.
He also said the plan went through a lengthy public approval process, even going before the city council for a second vote solely at Dudley’s request. It’s also way too soon to judge the project’s success. The proof will come later when businesses fill the downtown area and sales tax figures show a record of success, he said.
The Pioneer Way project has been the spotlight of Slowik’s administration, but he doesn’t view it as his crowning achievement. Since he was elected, the city has reduced its water waste from about 9 percent – 10 percent is the average for most cities – to about 1 percent.
That was accomplished through the replacement of three water mains and the installation of electric water meters.
Slowik said he’s not surprised nor does he lament Dudley’s announcement. That’s the democratic process and everyone interested in the job should be encouraged to throw their hat into the ring, he said.
“As much as I don’t agree with Mr. Dudley sometimes, I’m really happy to see him participating in the process,” Slowik said.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.