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Mayor wants Oak Harbor Elks to take over marathon

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley wants the Elks Club to run the city-owned Whidbey Island Marathon.

The question is whether the city council will agree.

The issue of who will run the event turned into a controversy earlier this summer when council members tried to push forward a contract for the marathon coordinator position, which Oak Harbor resident Tamra Sipes has held for five years.

Several council members spoke highly of Sipes and suggested she should continue.

Dudley, however, said he wasn’t happy with Sipes, and that choosing the coordinator and coming up with a contract was his decision to make, though he must obtain council approval.

Dudley put out a “request for proposals” for the marathon position and received five applicants, including Sipes.

“There were great applicants,” Dudley said. “I think the city will be better off with any of the other four.”

Oak Harbor Elks Lodge submitted an application to coordinate the race. Under the proposal, Elks member Melissa Riker will be in charge and any profits go the club.

Dudley said she comes with experience in running marathons.

“She’s dynamic, a go-getter and very enthusiastic,” he said.

A professional race director from Portland sent in a proposal for the coordinator job, as did Orsell Events, the company that currently runs the Whidbey Marathon races.

In addition, Michelle Curry, an Oak Harbor resident who’s coordinating the new hydroplane races, also applied.

Sipes said she still doesn’t understand why Dudley took exception to her performance, especially given that the marathon received national attention and that this year’s participation hit an all-time high.

“I put my heart into this event because I really do care about it,” she said. “This is just heartbreaking for me and the event.”

Dudley argued that the participation declined in prior years. He said a discount in registration fees that Sipes offered as a special promotion was part of the reason for increased registration this year, but it cost the city.

Sipes received a bonus for higher attendance and the race lost the city money.

The bonus based on attendance was Dudley’s idea.

Several council members, however, argued that the race is intended to boost the economy and showcase the area, not to make a lot of money for the city.

Dudley said he will ensure with the new contract for the marathon coordinator that costs remain on budget and the city doesn’t lose money.

Dudley said he plans for having the Elks take over the marathon on the Aug. 6 City Council agenda.

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