Whidbey voters registered with the county will have a chance to decide who will be the newest member of a non-regulatory, governmental entity dedicated to protecting natural resources.
The island’s Conservation District board of supervisors is composed of five positions, three chosen by election and two appointed by a state commission. On Feb. 4, a new member will be elected by Whidbey residents, who must be present at the Coupeville office between 2 and 6 p.m. to vote. It is located at 1 N.E. Fourth St.
The deadline has already passed to request an absentee ballot, which must be received by the day of the election.
The terms last three years and are unpaid. The board meets monthly and is responsible for making decisions about district finances and providing guidance on district activities.
The elected position has four candidates. District Manager Matt Zupich said it is unusual for so many candidates to be running for the position in a district that’s not exactly high profile.
“We’re really excited about that, because that’s what we want, for folks to get interested,” he said.
Most of the current board is composed of people with agricultural experience, but David Edwards would like to bring his experience with forestry to the district.
When he was employed with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Langley resident and Air Force veteran led the fixed-wing aerial firefighting division.
“The most important thing I learned while working there was state-level budgeting,” he said. “If you can tell a clear story about why you need more money and how you will spend it, you will often get what you need.”
He also believes in cooperating with other agencies for mutual benefits and would like to get to know the leaders working for Washington’s Department of Natural Resources and the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.
As the youngest candidate running for the position, lifelong Whidbey resident Kyle Flack, 34, believes he offers a unique perspective to the board.
“My motivation is to put a younger perspective and younger voice on the board,” he said. “I’ve worked a lot with the staff, and I’m really excited about their mindset.”
Flack owns a farm outside of Coupeville. He’s accustomed to helping neighbors who have questions about agriculture, referring to himself as a “land doctor. “
“I think I have a pretty good understanding of what the rural property owners need and what their challenges are,” he said.
One change he would like to make if he is elected would be to physically help property owners with their conservation practices on farms, such as drainage or seeding to cover crops.
A volunteer for Meerkerk Gardens, a master gardener and involved with the Organic Farm School, Greenbank resident Gary Ketcheson is an avid believer in the conservation of the island’s limited resources.
Although not a farmer like some of the other candidates, Ketcheson brings his own experience to the board.
“I would like to contribute my knowledge and understanding of ecosystems in making decisions on what projects the conversation district gets involved in,” Ketcheson said.
His goals include supporting the staff of the Conservation District, whom he believes are already successful and well-organized.
“I think it’s important that they have people who understand, at least in general, what they’re up against and provide guidance and support,” he said.
Organic farmer and incumbent board member Anza Muenchow knows a lot about food systems and food access, having helped the Conservation District with educational opportunities during her term.
“I’ve been doing it for three years and it’s a lot to learn,” Muenchow said. “I feel like now I get it.”
A Clinton resident, Muenchow is the most southern candidate for the position. She believes representation of South Whidbey is important.
Muenchow started out attending board meetings as a member of the public. Though she doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers, she said one of the changes she would like to see if she is elected again is a bigger meeting room, which could be more encouraging for the public to attend meetings regularly.
She also believes there are some projects of the Conservation District that Whidbey residents may not even be aware of, such as the ongoing plant sale.
“Knowing how things work, I could see getting involved in more grant applications for more projects,” she said.
The Whidbey Island Conservation District conducts elections annually from January to March. An appointed position, expiring May 1, is currently open for applications until March 31. For more information or guidance on how to apply, call 360-678-4708.