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Environmentalist named to planning board

Island County commissioners replaced the chairman of the county’s planning commission with a man who brings a much different perspective to land-use issues.

The commissioners unanimously voted to name South Whidbey resident Dean Enell to the planning commissioner after Commissioner Helen Price Johnson nominated him from a list of six candidates.

Price Johnson said Enell understands the importance of balancing economic and environmental concerns in planning.

“He’s pragmatic, open minded and has a broad knowledge of Island County, as well as planning issues,” she said.

Enell is probably best known as a former Democratic candidate for county commissioner and an environmental activist. He is a founding member of the Whidbey Island chapter of the Washington Conservation Voters and the Island County Smart Growth Coalition. He also serves on the Freeland Regulations Steering Committee and the Friends of Freeland.

Enell will replace Ray Gabelein, who has served on the commission since 2003 and had asked to be reappointed this year. Gabelein served as vice chair and then chairman of the commission. He and his wife own Ray Gabelein Bulldozing and Backhoe, a company that designs, maintains and installs septic tanks.

Gabelein was a strong voice for agriculture and property rights on the planning commission, Commissioner John Dean said. The commissioners thanked Gabelein for his years of service.

“He has given a lot of his personal time to the county,” Dean said.

In addition to Enell and Gabelein, four other candidates emerged from Commissioner District 1, which includes South and Central Whidbey. They are Todd Bitts, a licensed Realtor; Aaron Coates, the owner of a design firm that emphasizes sustainable, environmental stewardship; Tom Fisher, the owner of a woodworking business and a member of the Smart Growth Coalition; and Jon Lee, a retired federal investigator and local volunteer.

In addition, the commissioners reappointed Camano Island resident Bill Lippens to the planning commission for District 3, which covers North Whidbey and Camano. Lippens is an architect and owns his own business on Camano.

Dean picked him from among two other candidates: Kelly Emerson, a professional in the electrical industry, and Bob Monize, a veteran in the construction field who’s involved in many community organizations.

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