Since I have had the privilege of serving as your mayor, I have learned a lot. I have learned that we live in a community that is blessed with passionate and caring citizens. I have learned that by “working together” in a fashion that encourages conversations, allows dissent and promotes dialogue, we can achieve solutions that are not just a political compromise but a genuine solution to many social issues. Most importantly, I have learned that the members of the city council, the city department heads and the employees of this city are universally devoted to making Oak Harbor a great place to live: a great place to retire and an exceptional place to work, raise a family and pursue your dreams.
In the last year your city council, city staff and I have been able to restore your confidence in our police department, focus on improving employee morale to better serve our citizens and improve the level of service that you have every right to expect from local government.
We have worked hard to eliminate that divisiveness and controversy that defined our city just a few years ago. With your support and our current leadership, the City of Oak Harbor is once again one of the best places in America to live.
But we have challenges. When you are a “great place to live” people want to live here. When the largest employer in our county expands its workforce, more people need and want to live right here in Oak Harbor. While it would certainly be ideal if we could retain a high standard of living, employ all who want jobs, and maintain a high level of city services without building one more home, that is neither realistic nor even logical.
Recently, a concerned citizen spoke to the city council about his construction company and the frustration that he felt about the manner in which proposed construction projects were handled by staff.
The clear implication from these comments was that the city staff, mayor and council were giving preference to an out-of -state developer. The clear implication was that the city staff was not processing the local developer’s applications for development as expeditiously as it could be.
When I ran for mayor of this city, I promised to do my level best to make sure the city did not stand in the way of legitimate projects or slow development because of political beliefs or sentiment.
I promised to make certain that it would be easier to do business with the City of Oak Harbor on a daily basis than may have previously been the case.
This promise applied to a single rate payer who was frustrated with their water bill as well as the developer of 150 lots.
With the help of the city council and the department heads, I am fulfilling that promise and achieving that goal. But please understand a few principles that are essential to me as a person and as a mayor. While I am your mayor, this city government will treat every person, every developer, every land owner, every rate payer and every citizen the same whether they reside here or some other state or country. This city will follow the rule of law and not bend those rules to accommodate a local developer, a citizen whose ancestry dates to the 1800s or anyone in between.
While it is often said that perceptions are developed depending on “whose ox is being gored,” I believe we can and should instill within our citizenry a sense that they will and are being treated fairly, that their money and property rights are important, and that I will ensure that our staff does its best to protect those interests no matter how popular or unpopular the cause.
We have many challenges ahead and many successes about which to be pleased.
Please rest assured that your city government is working for you, and I will not stand by and allow the culture at city hall to become one that is either obstructive or stagnant.
• Bob Severns is mayor of the City of Oak Harbor.