Opinion

Shelton served county well

Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton will be hard to replace on the three-member panel that rules over county operations.

In nearly 16 years of service, Shelton, a Republican, proved he’s able to work effectively with everyone on any number of emotional issues, from land use to mental health and hunting. Whenever the going got tough, Shelton stepped in to cool-headedly mediate disputes. The most recent example is when the city of Langley and Island County Fair Board were headed to court over a disputed road through the fairgrounds. Thanks to Shelton’s intercession, a compromise was worked out and high court costs and further hurt feelings were avoided.

Working within an always-limited budget, the county made great progress during Shelton’s tenure. We have a new Law and Justice Center and a new Juvenile Detention Facility. A number of “good neighbor” ordinances, which make living in burgeoning Island County easier and more civil, were adopted, including a noise ordinance, lighting ordinance and junk car ordinance.

Shelton stuck to his conservative principals, but his conservatism came with a heart. He saw that government has a vital role to play in helping the mentally ill, providing services to juveniles, and protecting open space. Hundreds of acres of forested DNR acreage have been acquired during his tenure. In addition, the beautiful county park at Double Bluff could well be nothing but more waterfront homes today if Shelton hadn’t intervened at a critical moment. He also deserves a good share of the credit for helping the public acquire the historic Greenbank Farm, thereby preserving one of Whidbey’s most beautiful places for all time.

Shelton helped put Island County on the map when it came to statewide issues, serving as president of the Washington Association of Counties, and he worked closed with the delegation from the 10th Legislative District on numerous issues of critical importance to Island County. Republicans and Democrats felt equally comfortable with Mike Shelton in the room.

Replacing Shelton will be an interesting process. His resignation is effective Sept. 1, after which Republican Mac McDowell and Democrat John Dean will have to find someone they can both work with effectively. In other words, someone like Mike Shelton.

Shelton is moving on to a new challenge, as executive director of the Washington Counties Insurance Fund. We hope he enjoys his new job which, frankly, sounds kind of boring. If it turns out that way, we hope he will quickly return to politics in Island County.

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