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Second Amendment debate leads to challenge for Oak Harbor council pos. 4
Very distinct paths in life led the two men to challenging each other for position 4 on the Oak Harbor City Council.
Lucas Yonkman grew up in Oak Harbor in a well-known family that owns a successful construction company. After graduating from Oak Harbor High School, he enlisted in the Army, learned Arabic and ended up in Afghanistan, where he was seriously injured by a rocket-propelled grenade.
After being medically discharged, he returned home to Oak Harbor and joined with a fellow “wounded warrior” to start a new construction company.
“I’m just a regular guy running for public office in his hometown and trying to make a difference,” he said.
Bob Severns, the incumbent, earned a bachelor’s degree in administrative management and came to Oak Harbor in 1974 after accepting the position of vice president of Island Title Company. He didn’t plan on staying for more than a few years, but ended up falling in love with the community and becoming one of the most well-known characters in town.
Severns has given his time in a broad array of community organizations over the years, including leadership positions on the chamber, the Rotary and Habitat for Humanity.
“My education and experience gives me a special set of skills that I believe no other council member has,” he said.
“I’m always ready to serve when called upon.”
It’s mainly just the luck of the draw that led Yonkman to square off against Severns.
Yonkman said he was inadvertently thrust into the spotlight early this year after he attended a council meeting because he was curious about a Second Amendment issue. He ended up speaking in favor of gun rights and was questioned by Councilman Rick Almberg, who asked him if he was armed. Yonkman admitted he was and Almberg walked out when fellow council members didn’t support his motion to disarm Yonkman.
The video of the exchange went viral. A crowd of armed men attended the next meeting and Yonkman was one of those who spoke against the council’s earlier decision not to amend city code to allow guns in city parks.
Yonkman said many people in the community seemed impressed with his calm, intelligent statements and urged him to run.
He said his decision to run against Severns came down to the process of elimination.
Severns pointed out that he and Yonkman share very similar views on gun rights; he’s a gun-owning hunter.
Severns said the council initially passed on revising the code to allow guns in the park because it came to them on the heels of the Sandy Hook shooting and there was “an issue of delicacy.”
Severns said he proposed the emergency motion to approve the code change a month later.
“Obviously we had to get in line with state law,” he said.
Severns and Yonkman approach many other issues from different perspectives, including the biggest project in the city’s history.
Severns has been involved in the sewage treatment plant process from the beginning and feels it’s going in the right direction. He voted in favor of siting it in the vicinity of Windjammer Park; the project won’t take any park land, but will be located on Pioneer Way and will use a technology that’s supposed to be odor free.
Yonkman, however, said he doesn’t like the idea of building a sewage processing plant so close to the waterfront.
“It seems like repeating a mistake,” he said, referring to the old sewage plant in the middle of Windjammer Park.
Yonkman said he would be willing to pause and look at other sites — as advocated by Mayor Scott Dudley — if it’s financially prudent.
“I would like to see how much it would cost to take a step back,” he said.
Like the candidates in the other races, both Yonkman and Severns resist being categorized as being in either “camp” in the struggle between the council majority and Mayor Scott Dudley, though the mayor is campaigning for Yonkman.
Severns point out that he’s voted on both sides of issues that have divided the mayor and council. He voted for Dudley’s picks for fire and police chief, but opposed his choice for the city attorney, for example.
Yonkman said he will not be a “rubber-stamp” for anyone.
Severns said he’s glad he has a challenger, but that his experience and knowledge about complex city issues makes him the best candidate. He’s made a point of emphasizing that Yonkman has missed a couple of candidate forums. He said a young man with a new business just doesn’t have the time he, as a retiree, has to dedicate to the job.
“We are in the middle of some very important projects,” he said, later adding that he would like one more term to complete the work.
Yonkman said he was “a little disappointed” that Severns publicly criticized him for missing the forums after they both agreed to run positive campaigns.
Yonkman said he missed the two forums because he had opportunities that he felt will help him become a better councilman. In one, he went to a Washington Policy Center event and heard from a couple national icons of conservative politics.
The other was a class for scheduling and bonding large projects.
“I plan to make as much time as possible for the city,” he said. “It’s really important to me.”
Yonkman said his focus on cutting government spending and taxes, as well as his life experience, makes him the better candidate.
“I was born and raised here,” he said. “I know what it’s like to grow up here.”
“I know what it’s like to try to find a job here. I know what it’s like to start a business here.”
Work experience: Army sergeant, majority owner of construction company
Education: High school diploma, training in Army
Community involvement: Sunrise Rotary, Oak Harbor police community advisory committee
Family: Married, four children, two grandkids
Work experience: 43 years in title insurance, past president of company with seven branches, on board of Washington Banking Company
Education: Bachelor’s degree in in business administration from Central Washington
Community involvement: Chamber board, Navy League board, all officer positions on Oak Harbor Rotary and many other groups