OAK HARBOR CITY COUNCIL PRIMARY: Oliver focuses on needs of youth

One Oak Harbor City Council race is on the primary election ballot, which voters have already received in the mail. Scott Dudley, Gerry Oliver and Mel Vance are seeking Position 5, which is being vacated by Eric Gerber. The two candidates who get the most primary votes will advance to the general election in November. Return ballots must be postmarked no later than election day, Aug. 18.

Gerry Oliver wants to be the voice of Oak Harbor youth.

“It’s very important that there’s advocacy for young adults and youth in our community,” he said. “Kids are grossly left out.”

While the city has done a “pretty good” job marketing its parks to area youth, not every kid is an athlete, he said.

Oliver’s vision includes a youth center that he hopes will run off money collected through fundraising and donations of time and materials.

“Funding will still have to be investigated,” he said, adding that he’s confident the facility could rely on fundraising.

“I raised lots of money through fundraising for the Oak Harbor Youth Football League when my son played,” he said.

“There’s really nothing for kids to do or go in this community. There’s nowhere for them to learn life’s lessons,” he said.

A centrally located, indoor/outdoor community center within walking distance of Oak Harbor schools would give kids a safe place to hang out and grow as individuals, he said.

“My long-term goal is to put out confident young people who can proudly say, ‘I’m from Oak Harbor.’”

But Oliver isn’t afraid of being pegged as a one-trick-pony.

“I have a pretty good business sense and I’m pretty confident with how I think tax money should be spent,” he said.

Instead of cutting city spending, Oliver would like to attract more tourism to Oak Harbor to generate more funds for city projects.

Highway 20 near Pioneer way is not very attractive, Oliver said. It doesn’t exactly lure tourists into downtown, he said, suggesting the city could impose guidelines as a way to encourage building upkeep and “make the area more modern and attractive.”

“I think there’s little things we can do to keep the community looking nice,” he said.

Oliver would also like to see a plan to encourage manageable and sustainable growth in Oak Harbor.

“It’s the key to increasing revenues,” he said.

In regards to Island Transit, Oliver thinks the system is fantastic.

“I used it as a kid, but I’m not opposed to fare collection,” he said. “I rather see a user fee than burden the taxpayer.”

In preparation for his campaign, Oliver attended the last two council meetings and said he’s knocking on doors to find out what’s important to the community.

So far, aging retention ponds seem to be a big issue among homeowners, he said, adding that he’s spoken with Mayor Jim Slowik about the issue, but that there’s a lack of funding to address the problem.

He’s also met with Doug Merriman, city finance director, and spoken with the city administration.

“I’m trying to educate myself,” he said. “I’d be a fool to come in otherwise.”

Oliver said he can bring a bit of youth and excitement to city council.

“I would bring a whole fresh, new approach,” he said. “Oak Harbor is my home. It will always be my home. I grew up here and my kids have grown up here.”

Meet the candidates

Meet and question the candidates for Oak Harbor City Council at a forum Tuesday, July 28, presented by the League of Women Voters of Island County.

Candidates Scott Dudley, Gerry Oliver and Mel Vance have been invited to give statements and answer questions from the audience.

In addition, Island Transit’s proposed sales tax increase of three-tenths of one percent will be discussed.

The forum takes place from 7 to 9 p.m., July 28 at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge, 155 NE Ernst St.

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