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Peterson, Servatius offer stark differences for Oak Harbor City Council
The differences are pretty stark between the two candidates running for position 5 on the Oak Harbor City Council.
Councilman Joel Servatius emphasizes his education, experience as a businessman and a community volunteer, and skills as a critical thinker.
Challenger Sandi Peterson stresses her common sense, natural leadership abilities and years as a behind-the-scenes political mover-and-shaker.
Servatius is among the current council members who are most critical of Mayor Scott Dudley; Peterson was Dudley’s campaign manager, and she has his support in this election.
THE COUNCIL appointed Servatius to fill Dudley’s council seat two years ago after Dudley was elected mayor.
Servatius has been in the middle of several controversies over the years, but perhaps the biggest impact he’s had on the city was in pushing efficiency through technology.
Some call him the “paperless councilman.”
He’s helped fellow council members and city staff see the benefits of iPads, which saved the city hundreds of dollars worth of printing costs for each meeting. Plus, he points out the ease of searching records using the electronic medium, as well as communicating with constituents.
Servatius graduated from the University of Puget Sound’s Business Leadership Program, which he describes as a very selective program dedicated to honing students’ critical-thinking skills. He is branch manager of a Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc. office in Oak Harbor.
Servatius said he and his wife immersed themselves in the community after moving to Oak Harbor in 1997. He served on the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce board for nearly 12 years, volunteered at the school district, helped run a wrestling club for kids and is involved in his church.
“It’s vital that the city has the most experienced, educated and involved council members to handle the important decisions ahead of us,” he said.
PETERSON HAS tried to shape the political landscape of the island. She was campaign manager for both Dudley and Councilman Jim Campbell when he ran unsuccessfully for Island County commissioner.
She was involved in Rob McKenna and Dino Rossi’s gubernatorial campaigns and the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. She is president of the Republican Women of North Whidbey and vice chairwoman of the Island County Republican Party.
Peterson donated to many of Whidbey’s most conservative politicians, including Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson and state Sen. Barbara Bailey.
Peterson said she is ready to step into the limelight and lead in a more visible role. Dudley appointed her to his economic development ad hoc committee and, more recently, to the city planning commission.
She’s a regular attendee at council meetings and often speaks her mind on a wide-range of issues.
Though she doesn’t have a college degree, Peterson said her diverse work history informs her perspective on the world. She’s worked for both small companies and large corporations in a variety of roles. She said she worked in the legal department and was the director of customer service for a large company in Maryland.
Peterson holds a real estate license and was both a real estate sales person and a property manager.
The biggest difference between her and Servatius, she said, is their philosophy of government, though they both profess to be fiscal conservatives.
“He tends to be a top-down government guy and I’m a bottom-up government girl,” she said.
THE BIGGEST issue that will face the council in coming years is, arguably the new sewage treatment plant, estimated to cost $93.5 million.
The siting of the plant, in the vicinity of Windjammer Park on Pioneer Way, took years to decide. Several more key decisions will be made in the next year.
Peterson said she would favor slowing down the process and looking at alternative sites and technology, as the mayor has proposed.
She said she knows the state gave the city a timeline for completing the plant, but said officials should be able to negotiate an extension.
“I think it’s a lot of money no matter what we do,” she said, “and we need to be sure.”
Unlike Dudley, though, Peterson said she is happy with the current engineering firm and wouldn’t be in favor of looking for another.
Servatius said he believes that the right decisions have been made so far. Initially, he conceded, he was adamantly opposed to building a sewage plant in, or near, the waterfront park, but his opinion changed after learning about the technology and touring facilities in other communities.
He said he learned that the plants can be odor-free and attractive.
“I realized it can be a catalyst for the entire area,” he said, referring to potential development on Pioneer Way incorporated into the project.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT topic is the candidates’ relationship with the mayor.
Servatius admits there’s friction between him and the mayor; he publicly accuses Dudley of lying about him while Dudley was campaigning door-to-door for Peterson and his other council picks.
Some degree of disagreement is healthy, Servatius said.
Citizens get better results when their representatives aren’t afraid to vigorously debate while trying to find the best solutions, Servatius said. He denies, however, any claims of obstructionism and said he’s willing to stand alone in voting for something he feels strongly about.
Servatius questions whether the city — or democracy — will be well served if the mayor’s supporter is elected to the council.
Separation of the executive and legislative branches of government is important, he said.
Peterson said she thinks for herself, listens to input from everyone and does her own research. She said she’s not a “rubber-stamp” for Dudley, but will consider all sides of an issue.
Peterson said she can help change the “dysfunctional” state of city government.
“Part of what I did for a living was sales,” she said.
“In sales you learn to get along with a wide range of people.”