Vance belatedly challenges Almberg for Oak Harbor City Council

Mel Vance speaks at an Oak Harbor City Council meeting this past fall. He is running against incumbent Rick Almberg for position 3 on the council.  - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Mel Vance speaks at an Oak Harbor City Council meeting this past fall. He is running against incumbent Rick Almberg for position 3 on the council.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

Hoping his third run at political office will be the charm, Oak Harbor resident Mel Vance has once again thrown his hat into ring for a seat on the city council.

Vance, 46, filed for position 3 late Friday afternoon, in the final minutes of the last day of the filing period for open elected offices. The move surprised many, as it was beginning to look as if incumbent Rick Almberg would have a free ride to re-election.

Last Tuesday, Vance refuted rumors that he was planning to run for one of the three open positions on the council. All that changed by the next day, he said, when he began receiving a flood of calls from people encouraging him to run. Vance estimated that by Friday, he had been contacted by up to 50 people.

“Just about every 15 minutes, someone was calling and urging me to run,” he said.

Vance is no newcomer to Oak Harbor politics. In 2007 he cast an unsuccessful bid against Almberg for the same seat he’s seeking today, and then two years ago, he was eliminated in a three-way battle with Scott Dudley and Gerry Oliver.

It’s been just about four years since his battle at the polls with Almberg and Vance say’s he’s ready for a rematch. And things just may be different this time as he believes there are a lot of people that want to see change in the city’s leadership.

“Given the amount of support I got, I think I have a pretty doggone good chance,” he said.

Vance said he is a home-living assistant, residing at his mother’s home and taking care of both her and his younger brother. He also cares for an elderly couple. Vance has a stellar attendance record at city council meetings, estimating that he’s missed only a handful in the past five years.

If elected, Vance said he wants to focus less on encouraging growth by providing economic incentives to developers and focus instead on repairing existing infrastructure. City streets, he said, are in terrible shape and need attention.

He also wants to focus on promoting sustainability, looking into renewable energy sources. The old city shops, he said, are ripe for solar power and wind turbines.

Almberg, 66, is at the end of his first four-year term on the council. Although it looked like he would be running alone, he said he wasn’t surprised to learn that Vance had stepped forward as challenger.

“I really expected we’d have an opponent,” Almberg said.

Proud of the work the city has accomplished over the past four years, he said he is eager for a second term to finish work that’s already begun.

The city is engaged in an effort to build a new sewer treatment plant and it’s something he said he wants to see through to the end. Almberg, the owner of a general contracting and construction management firm, says he also wants to see a greater emphasis on infill in the city’s comprehensive plan.

Almberg defeated Vance four years ago by a healthy margin, receiving 71.17 percent of the vote, but he’s not taking anything for granted. He said he has a strong campaign committee at his back and is ready to talk issues.

“We’re taking this campaign on to win,” Almberg said. “We’re not going to be walking, we’re going to be running.”

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