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LeBaron beats Engle in conservation district

In this battle of south vs. north, the south won.

Thanks to a large voter turnout on South Whidbey, Duke LeBaron edged out incumbent Len Engle Tuesday for a seat on the board of supervisors of the Whidbey Island Conservation District.

The final count was 116 votes for LeBaron, 113 for Engle.

Engle, 64, a long-time Central Whidbey commercial farmer, won handily at the North Whidbey polling place at the Heller Road Fire Station in Oak Harbor. Those who cast their ballots there gave Engle a solid 79 to 18 victory.

LeBaron, a hobby farmer still active at the age of 76, made up the difference on South Whidbey where he received 98 votes to only 34 for Engle.

South Whidbey had a voter turnout advantage. The Freeland polling place at Trinity Lutheran Church attracted 132 total voters, to only 97 at the Heller Road location. There were no absentee ballots in this election.

This is the second time LeBaron has beaten Engle in a Conservation District race. In 1998 LeBaron ran a write-in campaign to unseat Engle.

In this year’s campaign, the two men agreed on the hot-button issue of farm plans. The environmental group Whidbey Environmental Action Network has obtained copies of individual farm plans, which angered farmers. LeBaron and Engle agreed that farm plans should be private. The state Legislature concurred, passing a law this month to make farm plans private in most cases.

Engle campaigned to represent the island’s larger, more traditional farms on the Whidbey Island Conservation District board, while LeBaron took more of a small-farm approach, emphasizing local marketing efforts.

This is the first year the Conservation District has offered two polling places, one north and one south. In prior years all votes were cast in Coupeville.

Bayview area resident LeBaron joins Frank Mueller of Coupeville and David Smith of Oak Harbor as elected members on the five-member board. Two members, Karen Krug of Maxwelton and Les Boon of Oak Harbor, are appointed by the governor.

As described by district manager Karen Lennon, conservation district supervisors are responsible for developing and carrying out programs that address natural resource concerns at the local level.

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