City Council choices cut to 3

Caravan, Dudley, Severns make finals

Members of the Oak Harbor City Council say they may have a tough time choosing among three high-caliber candidates to replace former Councilwoman Sheilah Crider, who resigned after being appointed Island County auditor.

Councilmembers narrowed the candidate pool from nine to three people at the Tuesday night meeting following an executive session to discuss their qualifications. The council will interview the three finalists — Walter Caravan, Scott Dudley and Bob Severns — and possibly make a final decision at the next council meeting, Tuesday, March 18.

It may be a very lively meeting. Former city Councilman Paul Brewer, who ran for mayor last fall and lost to Jim Slowik, is upset that he wasn’t chosen as one of the three candidates to be interviewed. He said he plans to attend the meeting and protest his exclusion from consideration.

“I strongly, very strongly, feel that was underhanded,” he said. “I met the criteria. I am more than qualified.”

The council members, however, had every chance to add Brewer or any other candidates to the list of people they wanted to interview, but they chose not to. Mayor Slowik paused the meeting Tuesday and asked if the council wanted to include any other names among the finalists, but was met with silence.

In an interview Thursday, though, Slowik said the council could still add to the three finalists — from the original nine — at the next meeting if the majority agrees.

Tuesday, only Councilman Rick Almberg discussed what criteria he considered.

“I know one of the things I was looking at in particular,” he said, “is a strength, a skill if you would have it that way, that would complement and strengthen the council for the benefit of the community.”

Councilman Jim Campbell said he was very pleased with the quality of all the applicants. He said he got “very, very, very nervous” at the thought of having to choose among the talented individuals.

“It’s been a very difficult process,” he said.

A standing committee of three councilmen met in executive session Feb. 25 to go over the resumes and reached a consensus that they would recommend Caravan, Dudley and Severns to the full council, Campell said. Tuesday, the council agreed.

The three men — two Rotarians and an Elk — appear to have an impressive depth of experience that make them each a respectable candidate.

Caravan is the newcomer in the group, having moved to Oak Harbor just two years ago. But he has experience in municipal governance, having served as mayor and councilman for the small town of Metaline, Wash., population 170.

Caravan said he will bring fresh ideas to the city, particularly in the area of wastewater and water treatment. He said he has knowledge of the issues, having worked for Seattle City Light. As mayor, he was successful in obtaining a $750,000 federal grant to build a wastewater treatment facility.

The retiree would also like to encourage more residents to get involved in city government.

“I think they should have more of a voice in things that happen in the city,” he said. “I think many of them would like to, but they don’t know how to go about doing so.”

Dudley, a financial advisor for Edward Jones Investments, also has experience in city politics, having served a term on the town of Rainier’s council from 1995 to 1998. He is the president elect of the Rotary Club of North Whidbey Island Sunrise, an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and volunteer with the school district. He was instrument in bringing Junior Achievement to the district and is a active with the Career / Tech and Future Business Leaders of American at the high school.

Dudley said he is excited by the prospects of working with the new crop of elected officials in the city. He said he could join them in making good decisions without the wrangling that took place in years past.

“I don’t come with an agenda,” he said. “I don’t have an axe to grind. I just want to make sure things run smoothly.”

Severns, the president of Chicago Title Insurance, has been president of the other Rotary, the Oak Harbor Rotary Club, and was formerly the chairman of the board of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. Among the three candidates, he has the greatest longevity in the community, having lived in the Oak Harbor area for 34 years.

He has also served as director and treasurer of the Child Abuse Foundation of Whidbey Island.

Like Dudley, Severns said he would fit in well with the current council and wants to help them make commonsense decisions. He feels the most important function of the council is to protect the citizens by having the best police, fire and infrastructure the community can afford.

Severns is especially interested in the waterfront and the downtown areas and hopes to help the council improve that part of the city.

Severns wants to see smart development in the city.

“We need to plan and manage growth to protect our quality of life,” he said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at or call 675-6611.