Port candidates see Greenbank Farm as key issue
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
July 22, 2011 · Updated 2:35 PM
Three people with extensive experience with the Greenbank Farm want more input about how it operates.
Laura Blankenship, Mike Diamanti and Richard Turner have all filed to run for a spot on the three-person board of commissioners for the Port of Coupeville. They are competing for the seat being vacated by Ann McDonald, who decided against running for a second term. Her district comprises the Greenbank area.
Blankenship is a one-time manager for the publicly owned farm, Diamanti has been involved with the farm for years and Turner grows crops out in one of the farm’s fields.
They will compete in a primary election Aug. 16 to winnow the field down to two before the November general election. Mail-in ballots will be sent out Monday by the Island County Auditor’s Office.
Blankenship, who is the current executive director of the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation, was executive director of the Greenbank Farm until she resigned in 2006. However, she continued a working relationship following her departure. She worked for the Port of Coupeville as editor for the port’s comprehensive plan.
She wants to continue her involvement with the port, especially since the coming years could mean changes for the Greenbank Farm, the commercial portion of which is owned by the port.
“I felt like I have something to offer,” Blankenship said.
In the upcoming six-year term, the port will establish a committee to review the Greenbank Farm, including the stewardship of the property, which includes buildings, agriculture fields and open space.
Blankenship said it would be a perfect time to analyze the port’s operations as a whole and examine the operations at another port facility, the Coupeville Wharf, as well.
Blankenship has served as hospital foundation executive directory since January 2007. She has a degree from the University of Washington and has approximately 30 years’ experience working for various nonprofit organizations. She lives in Greenbank.
Turner has also been active at the Greenbank Farm over the years. As a garden service owner, he also farms a small part of the land at the farm.
“I haven’t been entirely happy with the direction the port has gone,” Turner said about the Port of Coupeville’s handling of the farm.
He desires to see more small enterprise development take place at the farm, especially in the area of small commercial agriculture operations.
Turner would like to know more about the costs for leasing an acre of farmland at Greenbank and wants to see all available farmland at the farm used for crop production.
As for the Coupeville Wharf, he would like to see it become more of a focal point of marine industry and attract more visitors to the historic town.
“I’d like to see more events at the wharf,” Turner, 45, said.
He would like to increase the port’s visibility in maritime publications in hopes of attracting more boats to the wharf.
“There’s a tremendous amount of boating in the Puget Sound and I haven’t seen it getting here,” Turner said.
He has been living on Whidbey Island since 2005, and holds associate’s degrees from South Seattle Community College and Highline Community College.
Mike Diamanti has been an observer of the Greenbank Farm since its previous owner in the mid-1990s threatened to sell the land to housing developers.
His eyes were opened about the port’s business side when he analyzed fuel operations and found the port was selling fuel and moorage space at less than competitive rates when compared to neighboring marinas.
“I realized I wanted to get involved as a commissioner and not as a publicly involved person,” Diamanti said.
He said the highest priority for the Port of Coupeville is to get the Greenbank Farm conservation easement approved by Island County, which will provide better protection for the agriculture and environmentally sensitive lands than the current zoning offers.
Diamanti added that any economic development at the farm should be consistent with the historic and environmental character of the farm.
Diamanti, 62, has been living in the Greenbank area since 1988 and has worn several hats on Whidbey Island over the years. He is the one-time manager for Whidbey Pies Cafe, headed the Central Whidbey Youth Coalition and he is currently the manager for the Inn at Penn Cove on North Main Street in Coupeville.
Hear them yourself
Central Whidbey voters will get a chance to hear from the three candidates vying to become a Port of Coupeville commissioner during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters Tuesday, July 26, at 7 p.m. at the Coupeville Library meeting room. The top two in the Aug. 16 primary will move on to the November general election. Ballots will be in the mail next week.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.