Langley city council members were almost unanimous in their vote to choose Scott Chaplin as the Village by the Sea’s next mayor over Councilmember Thomas Gill.
The council members grilled the two candidates on a multitude of issues, including their management style, financial concerns, traffic safety, climate change preparation and their opinion on mandatory anti-racism training for city staff.
Councilmembers Craig Cyr, Dominique Emerson and Peter Morton voted for Chaplin. Christy Korrow was the lone vote for Gill, who abstained in the vote.
Chaplin has lived in Langley since 2015 and has been involved with several nonprofits. He was also elected chairperson of the Island County Democrats for the 2017-2018 term and has worked with the Affordable Housing Working Group, which is part of the Langley Planning Advisory Board.
Chaplin served six years as a trustee in the town of Carbondale, Colo., where he owned a small store focused on sustainability. He was also a board member for the largest rural transit provider in the country for two years.
Chaplin previously told the South Whidbey Record he would transition from his current job at Stallman Studio in Bayview if he was elected as mayor.
In response to a question about his management style, Chaplin pointed to his experience working in nonprofit groups and running his retail store. He said he thrives best when working with a team.
“I don’t need people to like me,” Chaplin said during the interview portion of the council meeting. “I just want everyone to do their best in their job, and act as professionally as possible.”
“I might come across as a little cold at first I think, in that regard,” he added, saying that he would see what style works for Langley.
Gill referenced his job at Whidbey Telecom when speaking about his management experience. Although he doesn’t have the title of manager, he said he still oversees a handful of people at the company.
When asked about the financial challenges facing Langley, Chaplin acknowledged that many people talk about the Langley Infrastructure Project, but that he was more concerned about pay equity and retention of staff. He also pointed to several empty storefronts downtown and the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds and Events Center — owned by the Port of South Whidbey — as opportunities to encourage new businesses to grow, which may lure people to Langley in the off-season and bring in more cash to the city.
Gill highlighted the rising costs of maintenance and staff in the city and the limits on raising property taxes as a concern. He said there could be some cost savings from using more green energy in city operations. He also suggested using the fairgrounds as a way to bring in more tourism dollars; he said the city could do more to incentivize new business generation and residents to shop locally.
The council asked both candidates whether they would require anti-racism training. The topic has been a hot-button issue after city council members passed a resolution requiring all staff members to attend an anti-racism training, but Mayor Tim Callison refused to make it mandatory.
Callison said he would strongly encourage staff to do it, but he did not want to make it a requirement because there had already been some push back.
Chaplin got personal when he voiced his support for mandatory anti-racism and anti-sexism training. He talked about growing up in a school with a significant Black student population and thinking he understood enough about race to consider himself not racist. He has recently learned more about racism and changed his mind.
“Now I’m just at the point where I’m hoping that I’m less racist and sexist than my grandfather,” Chaplin said.
He admitted that it may be difficult for some people to understand systemic issues, especially white men like himself.
“Those in power will be at least somewhat blind to the power dynamics and the impressions they create,” he said.
Gill said he would mandate anti-racism training of some sort, either interactive or non-interactive, admitting he had some social anxiety himself and understood some people may not want to do a training as a group.
“I think everyone can benefit from some sort of training,” Gill said.
The council members also grilled the candidates about traffic safety and climate change. Both had similar answers about fixing the issue or preparing for its dire effects.
A third candidate, Roger Scrafford, applied for the mayor position last week, but withdrew from consideration and was not interviewed.
Council members went into executive session for about 30 minutes before returning to vote. Chaplin led the rest of the meeting after he was sworn in as mayor via Zoom.
Correction: This story incorrectly stated the current council members who will be in office after the November election. Both Councilmembers Craig Cyr and Thomas Gill will be in office until their terms end in 2023. We regret the error.