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Oak Harbor councilman Campbell challenges Island County commissioner Homola

Island County Commissioner Angie Homola, a Democrat, will seek reelection in 2012 but her bid for the District 2 seat will not go uncontested.

On Monday, just two weeks after she declared her candidacy, Oak Harbor City Councilman Jim Campbell announced his intention to challenge Homola for the position as a leading Republican candidate.

Campbell has had his eye on the seat for more than a year but only made his decision recently. He said bickering among the politically divided county board members is out of control and he  believes he can help restore the peace.

“To be perfectly honest, I think it’s time to introduce a little sanity to that crowd,” Campbell said.

The board of commissioners, a body that makes policy decisions that affect residents in rural Island County, has three members. Each position is  partisan, carries a four-year term and pays $78,496 a year. The District 2 seat held by Homola  encompasses all of the greater Oak Harbor area.

Homola, 52, is an architect with prior experience as a carpenter and machinist. She was elected in 2008 after narrowly defeating longtime Republican  Commissioner Mac McDowell by a margin of 62 votes. She made public her plans to seek a second term in late November with a news release to the media.

Although Homola has served during what she called the county’s most prolonged financial crisis in history, she said the past three years have been both productive and rewarding. She is particularly proud that the steps taken by the board to balance the budget have earned the county a AA bond rating.

“That’s unprecedented,” she said.

She went on to say measurable progress has been made in job retention and creation, technology upgrades, energy cost savings, county departmental consolidation and program efficiencies.

She counts advances in government transparency as another big victory. Commissioner meetings are now taped and Homola encouraged the public to watch them online, saying it will show that partisan squabbles aren’t as bad as they are made out to be.

Time and again, efforts have been made to reach across the table and resolve things collaboratively, she said. The disagreements have been blown out of proportion largely because the board consists of women rather than men, she said.

“If you put three women together and have a debate, it’s a cat fight,” Homola said. “If you put three men together and have a debate, it’s a debate.”

If elected to another term, Homola said her top priority will be to secure a financial model that balances revenue shortfalls with mandated services. She also plans to tackle elements of the comprehensive plan that address low-income housing, fish and wildlife, agriculture and stormwater.

Campbell, 76, is in the middle of his second term on the city council. He moved to Oak Harbor in 2000 after retiring from a long career with Lockheed Martin. His last position was in Helensburgh, Scotland, as the company’s liaison between the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy for the Trident Missile Program.

He began thinking about county politics before Kelly Emerson, a Tea Party Republican, unseated Democratic Commissioner John Dean in 2010. At the time, the board was in sore need of political diversity, Campbell said.

“Before Kelly, there were three Democrats there,” he said. “That’s dangerous.”

Campbell is not so happy about the way the county’s financial struggles have been addressed, saying the budgets of first responders were cut too deeply. He believes protection services for the public are a top priority, and the budgets of affected departments need a bigger slice of the pie, he said.

Over the past four years, the county has cut millions from its general fund to make up for revenue shortfalls. No departments were spared and there is arguably very little fat, if any, left to trim.

When asked where the money to supplement law enforcement and legal department budgets would come from, Campbell admitted he didn’t know. However, he said he was sure that over time the funds could be identified.

Last year, Campbell was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said regular testing has shown that it is well under control and described his health as “excellent.” He does not believe it will be a problem if he’s elected.

“I’ve got all the energy I need,” Campbell said.

So far, no others have confirmed a run for the District 2 seat, though several have expressed interest. Oak Harbor School Board member David Sherman and Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Director Jill Johnson-Pfeiffer are both considering the idea.

 

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