Four vie for Oak Harbor City Council spot
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
July 28, 2011 · Updated 9:11 AM
With the mailing of primary election ballots Monday, voters can now begin narrowing down the number of candidates vying for a single Oak Harbor City Council seat from four to two.
Paul Brewer, Mark Wiggins, Martha Yount and Tara Hizon are all seeking to fill position one. The seat is currently held by Jim Palmer, who has decided not to run for a second term due to personal reasons.
City council seats are non-partisan elected positions that carry a four-year term. Council members are paid a monthly salary of $596 ($7,152 annually), can be reimbursed for up to $650 per year for travel expenses and are eligible for a medical package.
Of the seven positions on the council, three are up for election this year. However, this is the only race with more than two candidates, so it will be the only one of the three to appear on the Aug. 16 primary.
The two with the most votes will proceed to the General Election, Nov. 8. In the order in which they filed, here they are:
Brewer, 66, has called Oak Harbor home for more than 35 years. He spent 30 years in the Navy and retired as a master chief, which is the highest rank possible for enlisted personnel. He currently works as the solid waste manager for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
He is no newcomer to city politics, having spent a total of 12 years and three terms on the city council. He has been out of elected office since 2007 when he waged an unsuccessful bid for mayor against Jim Slowik.
Once known as the council gadfly, Brewer said such a person is needed again. Over the past four years, he said he’s watched how “government has been closed down.”
Brewer wants to revert the start time of council meetings back to 7 p.m. and to make city standing committee meetings more accessible. They are held in multiple locations around town, some as early as 7 a.m., and it’s hard for people to attend.
“The public is left out of most of the decision making,” Brewer said.
He said the council should have both a majority and minority report when important issues or projects are brought forward and the agenda for the next meeting should be set after each council meeting. That way, he said, the public has more notice about what will be discussed.
Finally, Brewer wants to be involved in the planning of the city’s proposed $70-million wastewater treatment facility. Of the five sites proposed, Brewer said he believes a site on Crescent Harbor is the best fit.
Brewer is throwing his support behind Scott Dudley for mayor and said he was against the decision to turn SE Pioneer Way into a one-way street. Most people were not in favor of the change and their wishes should have been followed, he said.
“As an elected official, I’m there to represent the people,” he said.
Brewer said he believes his experience and passion make him the best person for the job.
Aside from schooling and a tour in the Army, Wiggins, 53, has spent his entire life in Oak Harbor. He graduated from Oak Harbor High School and works as an administrator and nurse for Whidbey Island Manor boarding home, a business his family started in 1963.
Wiggins has spent about 30 years volunteering for three city boards, from the Oak Harbor Park Board to the planning commission. The decision to pursue a vacant seat on the city council seemed a natural next step, he said.
“I’m a glutton for punishment,” Wiggins laughed.
If elected, his priorities will focus on major infrastructure projects such as the proposed wastewater treatment plant. He doesn’t want it built at Windjammer Park; he said the project will require careful planning and investigation.
“The cost scares me,” he said.
Similarly, the city has sunk millions into the revitalization of downtown, a project that had been talked about for decades. Wiggins said he was glad something was finally done and believes the street design will work out.
However, he said downtown needs something else, such as the hotel and convention center proposed for Bayshore Drive about 10 years ago, to cement its success. Getting rid of the city’s 35-foot building height restriction would be a way to open up further possibilities, he said.
Wiggins is undecided about the mayor’s race. Although he was initially for Dudley, he said it’s become clear there are positives and negatives for each candidate and he doesn’t know how he’ll vote.
As for himself, Wiggins said voters should elect him because of his time in Oak Harbor and his experience in city government. He believes he’d do a good job and is committed to being attentive.
“I don’t talk much but I do listen,” Wiggins said.
Yount is also a longtime Oak Harbor resident, having moved to the city first in 1967 with her husband, Rick Yount. Although the Navy took them away for a few years, they settled in Oak Harbor in the 1970s and opened Whidbey Island Computers, a business they ran together for nearly two decades.
Yount said she’s long been an “arm-chair observer” of the city council, and had considered running for years. She’d spoken with her late husband about it but it was only recently that she decided it was time to act.
“I guess you could say it was on my list of things to do,” Yount said.
Of the four candidates, Yount has been the only regular at council meetings over the past year. Wiggins began showing up regularly at the beginning of the year, Brewer hasn’t missed a meeting since he announced in May, and Hizon has only been to one since filing for office, though she said she always watches them on TV at home.
If elected, Yount promised to maintain public safety and “a special quality of living” unique to small cities such as Oak Harbor. She called herself a “team player” and a supporter of responsible and well-planned growth.
More information could change her opinion but she believes Crescent Harbor is the best place for the new wastewater treatment plant. As for the Pioneer Way one-way controversy, Yount said she’s heard both sides of the issue and believes the “majority have said they are for it.”
Now that the project is under way it’s more important to support the city and work to get the project done than to argue about whether or not it was the right decision, she said.
A supporter of incumbent Jim Slowik, Yount said the mayor has worked hard for the city and believes him to be a “man with integrity and ethics.”
Yount is asking for the public’s vote because she believes her own ethics, hard work, and belief that she can be a candidate for the whole community makes her the best person for the job.
“I’m not in this for myself,” Yount said. “As my grandmother would say, it spoke to me.”
At 32, Hizon is more than 20 years junior to the next youngest person in the four-way council race. But being in the under-40 crowd hasn’t seemed to slow her down.
Before becoming the owner and operator of her own small business, a writing, communications and content marketing firm, Hizon spent eight years working as a certified residential real estate appraiser. She also serves and volunteers with several local groups.
Hizon has been considering a foray into Oak Harbor politics for some time but it was only with the progression of major city projects, such as SE Pioneer Way and the wastewater treatment plant, that she decided to take the plunge.
“It just finally seemed like the right time,” Hizon said.
A supporter of the downtown road construction project, Hizon said she was “thrilled” the city took it on after so many years of discussion. That people are still debating a decision made over a year ago has been frustrating to watch, she said.
Ultimately, she believes it will succeed.
“I hope and pray everyone in a year will wonder what all the fuss was about,” Hizon said.
Completing the project will be her top priority if elected, though she hopes it will be a non-issue by the time the successful position 1 candidate takes office.
Once it’s wrapped up, Hizon said she’ll turn her attention to encouraging economic development, particularly downtown. She promised to work with merchants, promote a pleasant atmosphere and attract new businesses.
Hizon is also excited about working on the new wastewater treatment plant. She hopes to see it built on the Crescent Harbor site and not at Windjammer Park. That would be the “worst case” scenario, she said.
Hizon declined to say who she is supporting for mayor, though she said she’s known the Slowik family for years. Also, members of her campaign staff are vocal Slowik supporters.
Hizon said she has no personal agenda for running, other than to be “a voice for the people.” She promised to vote her conscience and in a way that will benefit the majority.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.