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Editorial

"Rex Hankins lived to see the world change dramatically, sometimes in ways he didn't like. After moving to escape the sprawl he witnessed in California, Hankins settled in Oak Harbor and became an outspoken champion of planning and growth management.The Oak Harbor City councilman died July 8, at the age of 73, after a six-month battle with lung cancer. Within the next three months, the Oak Harbor City Council will pick a replacement for Hankins. The council has put out a call to interested residents to apply for the seat. The deadline is July 31.Mayor Patty Cohen has said she would like to see a candidate who is interested in running for the seat in the 2001 election and who exemplifies that sense of stewardship of the city that was so strong with Hankins.We certainly agree. But we also believe city councilors should be a little more specific in the qualities they're looking for. We hope they will be able to find someone who truly represents the values and ideas of Rex Hankins. Hankins was a man who believed in cautious planning and development. He stood up to the big developers and big-box retailers. He was one of the four men on the council who tried to stop Wal-Mart from building at its present site, eventually leading the city into a losing battle in Superior Court. He pushed the city to require preannexation agreements from businesses before the city would extend water outside city limits. He voted down or voted to delay several annexations. He asked that businesses be required to pay for their own needs and impacts on the community.His ideas put him in conflict with many business people and other councilors, and there were hard feelings from some, who called Hankins anti-business and anti-growth. He always shrugged off the criticisms and said growth and development was inevitable, but it needed to be done in the right way.The fellow councilors who will pick Hankins' replacement need to set aside politics and willingly support a candidate who, like Hankins, has some ideas contrary to their own.After all, Hankins was elected by a community that knew him well. Whether meeting people on his daily walks or talking to a reporter on the telephone, he was always willing to talk city politics and give his opinion. He easily won two elections without ever putting up a yard sign, or even running much of a campaign.In Oak Harbor politics, growth and planning have been divisive issues over the last five years. Hankins' replacement will serve until the next regular council election in November of 2001, which means he or she will certainly take part in many important decisions about the future of Oak Harbor.Since Hankins can no longer lend his voice in making these decisions, his replacement must be a person who is mindful of Rex Hankins' vision for Oak Harbor."

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