Youth or experience? Voters decide Nov. 3

Oak Harbor City Council candidates Scott Dudley and Gerry Oliver went head-to-head Wednesday evening at a voters’ forum sponsored by the Whidbey Island League of Women’s voters.

Current and former city council members and other elected officials were among the sizable crowd at the forum.

Former 12-year councilman Paul Brewer grilled the candidates on their intentions for downtown development.

“What are you going to do to get the Pioneer Way issue finally resolved?” he asked.

Dudley began with an invitation to the community to attend several upcoming open-house-style meetings on the issue.

“It’s exciting and a lot of information is going to be coming out,” he said, adding that he just came from a Harbor Pride meeting where the downtown development issue was discussed.

“You’ll be happy to know that we have a plan moving forward,” he said. “The question now is in reference to ‘are we looking at doing a one-way or a two-way (street).’ In fact there’s going to be quite a bit of debate on that.”

Oliver took a more direct approach, stating that he prefers the one-way option.

“People have got to state where they stand on it and start pushing forward,” he said. “The decision has to be for the betterment of businesses.”

As a follow-up to Brewer’s question, a local small business owner asked the candidates how they’ve utilized local goods and merchants during their campaign.

Oliver lightened the mood and drew a hearty laugh with a short story about how he found himself in a pinch for the perfect tie to wear to the voters’ forum. His last-minute search brought him downtown where he settled on a new, pink and purple tie.

Dudley responded to a re-tooled version of the question, with a focus on post-campaign business support.

“The bigger question is how do we support the local businesses not just during campaign season, but year round,” he said. “The day we came into Oak Harbor, we immediately joined the chamber of commerce.”

He will continue to support local businesses, he said, through support of the chamber.

Another audience member asked the candidates if they have any original ideas to bring in additional funds to the city.

Oliver suggested a skate park event to showcase local talent and bring in visitors from Mount Vernon and Seattle.

Dudley said he has a “tendency to listen to other great ideas,” and suggested the city refill a former position that once sought grant money. He also thought the Oak Harbor Web site may be a good place for advertising revenue, but wasn’t sure of the legality of advertising on a municipality’s Web site.

When asked about the use of a transportation dollars for a roundabout in Oak Harbor, Oliver showed interest in such a proposal, but Dudley said he’d rely on the expertise of the engineering department before he’d make such a decision, prompting nods of approval from current council members in the audience.

Dudley made it clear that he’s up on most of the city’s hot-button issues, although he didn’t reveal his stance on many of the matters.

“I look forward to decisions at the city level,” he offered.

Oliver wasn’t shy about his lack of knowledge on some city issues. But he emphasized he’s ready to listen and learn.

“My door is wide open. I’m willing to listen to what people’s concerns are and then go review it and then come up with an idea and put it forward,” Oliver said.

There are all kinds of issues facing this city, he said, and he’d like to talk them over with the community. Oliver expended an invitation to the audience to meet him at Pami’s Restaurant, where he’ll be every Tuesday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. to talk about politics and his ideals.

“Like I said before, I speak what’s on my mind and I speak what’s in my heart,” he said.

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