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Mayor Dudley’s campaigning antics criticized by Oak Harbor councilmen during breakfast candidates forum

Perhaps the most telling moment at a breakfast voters’ forum Thursday came when a councilman verbally attacked the Oak Harbor mayor.

The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum, which was the second this election season. This time, each candidate had 10 minutes to introduce themselves and answer questions.

The rocky relationship between Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley and the majority of council members intruded into the forum as two councilmen criticized Dudley ­— who was in the audience — for openly campaigning for their challengers and other council candidates he prefers.

Councilman Joel Servatius, who’s running for his seat to which he was appointed, pulled no punches when an audience member asked him what he thought about Dudley’s campaigning.

He accused the mayor of making up “an outright lie” about him when he was going door to door.

“He said I took a city car and allowed my wife to use it,” he said, adding that the allegation is absolutely false.

Servatius said Dudley’s decision to campaign door-to-door for council candidates is “inappropriate for a number of reasons,” claiming Dudley even went to the home of an “at-will” city employee.

Councilman Bob Severns, who’s running for re-election, also criticized the mayor’s campaign activity. He said Dudley’s actions are “unprecedented.”

“I think even the mayor of Pacific didn’t knock on doors, to my knowledge,” he said, referring to Cy Sun, the controversial mayor of the city of Pacific who was recalled by voters this year.

In an interview after the forum, Dudley denied lying. He said he told a resident about Servatius’ request to use a city-owned car to drive his family to a conference in Kennewick because his vehicle was in the shop. Dudley said the request was denied.

Besides the small amount of fireworks, the forum largely focused on the candidates’ backgrounds. Severns emphasized that his challenger, Lucas Yonkman, was absent for the second of four forums.

Councilman Danny Paggao described how he came to America, “the land of opportunity,” from the Philippines. He spent 23 years in the Navy, did a tour of Vietnam in 1966 and has been involved in a large variety of volunteer activities.

“My vision of Oak Harbor is to make the city one of the best livable cities of the United States,” he said.

Mike Piccone, who’s challenging Paggao, described how he volunteered for the military immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. He became a member of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team formerly stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and went on back-to-back deployments to Iraq, where his job was to deal with roadside bombs.

He was medically discharged because of a back injury and now stays home with two small sons.

“With two boys under 3, I am still disarming bombs,” he said.

Councilman Jim Campbell outlined his career, which began in the Navy and included a period as “a long-haired hippie freak living in San Francisco” and his work as a project manager with Lockheed Martin, particularly the Trident Missile program.

“The experience I’ve had is perfect for the City Council,” he said, “and I don’t want you to forget it.”

Skip Pohtilla, Campbell’s challenger, explained that he has a master’s degree in management. In the Navy, he was a bombardier/navigator in an A-6 Intruder. He said he was involved in coordinating the air response for NATO during the war in Serbia. He and his wife, K.C. Pohtilla, have been involved in the community for decades.

“I have a strong desire to be involved in the community,” he said.

Servatius said he grew up as the youngest of eight kids on an Idaho farm. He said he graduated from a highly selective college and started his own business as a financial manager. His wife’s job in the Navy brought the couple and their children to Oak Harbor in 1997. He said he immediately immersed himself in the community as a volunteer on the chamber of commerce board, at the schools and elsewhere.

“We always had the philosophy, ‘If you’re going to be somewhere, be involved,’” he said.

Sandi Peterson, who’s challenging Servatius, spoke about her diverse careers in business both large and small, which included a home-based business and “direct sales.” She has a license as a real estate broker and worked as a property manager. As a council member, she said she would focus on finding ways to help business.

“We don’t need to take any dollar out of your pocket that we don’t have to,” she said.

Finally, Severns focused on his high-level education and his lengthy career as a title officer and escrow officer. He’s currently on the board of Whidbey Island Bank, but is otherwise retired; he said he has the time and skills to dedicate to the city.

He described himself as “fiscally conservative” and said the greatest challenge he sees for city government is keeping the cost of living as affordable as possible.

 

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