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Flag flies once again over courthouse

New Island County Facilities Director Larry Van Horn had staff restore an historic, 65-foot flagpole that had fallen into disrepair. The flagpole, which stands in front of the Courthouse Administration Building in Coupeville, is dedicated to former county prosecutor James Zylstra. - Photo by Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
New Island County Facilities Director Larry Van Horn had staff restore an historic, 65-foot flagpole that had fallen into disrepair. The flagpole, which stands in front of the Courthouse Administration Building in Coupeville, is dedicated to former county prosecutor James Zylstra.
— image credit: Photo by Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

In time for Labor Day, an American flag is once again flying over the county’s historic courthouse.

The neglected flagpole was broken for more than a decade.

Island County’s new Facilities Director Larry Van Horn noticed the flagless pole a few days before the Fourth of July.

“I’m a pretty patriotic guy,” Van Horn said.

He said he went on a “walkabout” to check out the flagpoles on Island County’s governmental campus in Coupeville and noticed the broken flagpole.

He said the pulley at the top of the pole was rusted and seized up.

Van Horn said he also found a plaque at the base of the flagpole that was overgrown with bushes.

“It was dedicated to an individual who was a true fixture in the community for a lot of years,” Van Horn said.

The flagpole was dedicated to James Zylstra, who worked as the county’s prosecuting attorney, served two terms as Coupeville mayor and was elected as Island County clerk.

Zylstra also served as state representative from 1919-22.

The plaque reads: “In memory of James Zylstra 1877-1954, Coupeville Lions Club.”

Even though it was a small project, Van Horn said it was worth the time to get it cleaned up so that the memorial flagpole could be enjoyed by the community.

County staffer John Matteson and Dennis Bodley repaired and repainted the 65-foot flagpole in front of the courthouse.

“It’s in good shape now,” Van Horn said.

The pole was abandoned around the time the new courthouse was built in 1998 and the old courthouse building converted into administrative offices, Van Horn said.

Van Horn hit the ground running as facilities director in May, after the previous director was out with an injury for nearly two years.

“We’re getting everyone pulled together,” Van Horn said. “There’s a lot of valuable knowledge in the department, and we will continue to make efforts to improve conditions for the community.”

Carla Waite, who worked as the facilities office manager for nearly 25 years, said it’s nice to have a new director paying attention to details like the flagpole.

“I’m very happy to have him here,” Waite said.

Van Horn said he hopes to continue to tackle these type of projects that had been “orphaned off or didn’t have clear direction.”

“Seeing the flag flying in front of the old courthouse is meaningful,” said Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson.

“It demonstrates that we have pride in our county campus, and that translates to pride in our community. I respect our facilities team for noticing that the flagpole was a memorial dedication and ... restoring it to the point where the flag can fly again,” she said.

“It’s a little thing, but little things matter.”

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