Six candidates are vying for three positions on the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District board.
And for the three candidates available for interviews, each said passing the replacement levy this November is the most important issue the district is facing. If the levy doesn’t pass, the current board decided Thursday evening to suspend activities at the Oak Harbor pool effective Nov. 13.
What this means, said Executive Director Steve McCaslin, is that nothing that goes on in the water will continue for the moment.
Some programs, like kayaking, may be able to come back because the pool wouldn’t need to be heated and the district doesn’t supply staff for it.
But, if the levy fails next month, programs like swimming lessons won’t continue. It also means the Oak Harbor High School boys swim team won’t have a season.
The next time the district can run the levy again would be November 2018.
If the levy fails, the district could see little to no pool use for the next year.
Dan Brown and Patricia Hardin face each other in the race for Position 5 on the park board.
Hardin is a 2002 California transplant, who moved to the island to take care of her mother. She and her husband owned a printing business for 28 years prior to moving.
She started using the pool for recreational and health reasons. Her favorite activities are water aerobics and volleyball.
“My first priority will be people, children especially, learning how to swim,” Hardin said. “It’s so important because we have so many lakes and bodies of water.”
She also added she thinks there are voices in the district, like the water aerobics group, that currently aren’t being heard.
Dan Brown moved to Whidbey Island in 1990 on Navy orders. He met his wife here and they have a 12-year-old daughter. He retired from the Navy 10 years ago.
It’s because of his daughter Brown has become more involved in the district. She swims with the North Whidbey Aquatic Club and Brown has been active with the Blue Heron Booster Club.
“I want her to have a pool in the town she lives in,” Brown said, adding that her first exposure to water was at the pool.
“We live on an island so every child should learn how to swim.”
Current board member Shane Hoffmire is running for board Position 2 against John Chargualaf and Mukunda-Krishna Tyson.
Hoffmire moved to Whidbey Island in 1999 and graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 2003.
His father, Steve Hoffmire, previously served on the board.
The family became more involved in the district when Hoffmire’s sister joined NWAC.
“Two years ago I kind of felt I could see where the district was going,” Hoffmire said.
“I felt I could help.
“I hope I win and look forward to working with the new composition on the board.”
Neither of his challengers returned requests for interviews for this story.
In the third seat, Position 4, former district commissioner Sean Merrill is running unopposed.
Discussions from the current board planning if the levy doesn’t pass in November have been focused on how to maintain some services with a majority of the district’s revenue going away.
“I think putting that out is disingenuous at best,” Brown said prior to Thursday’s decision.
“If the levy fails, the pool is going to close.
“It’s not a self-supporting facility. It says right on the building ‘taxpayer supported.’
“Obviously, if the levy fails, that’s the community, saying we don’t want to put anymore money into the pool.”
Hoffmire, who’s been part of the planning discussions, agrees.
“Oh, absolutely,” Hoffmire said confirmed, also prior to Thursdays decision. “There’s no way it could stay open.
“You’d have to double rates to stay open and then you risk losing patrons.”
For Hoffmire, he thinks the solution may be in reopening dialogue with the city to create a new mutually beneficial partnership.
He says the levy always has great support within city limits and with the city owning the land the pool sits on, he doesn’t think residents will like to see their council leave the pool to close.
“It’s the only solution I see,” Hoffmire said. “Or, maybe, the Navy could step up and help support it.”
For both Brown and Hardin, they both agree communication is lacking with the current district board.
Brown said that is one of the big reasons he decided to run.
“The board of commissioners needs to engage with the community in a positive manner again,” he said.
Brown has had a contentious relationship with some of the current board members.
In April, the police were called to a meeting after he became upset and slammed his arms down onto the board tables, causing beverages to fly.
“I really felt what led up to that was the board’s utter disrespect of everyone else in that room,” he said. “I think if the composition changes, dialogue can be better.”
If elected, he said he’d like to see a regular opportunity for dialogue with the community.
Hardin said she feels comfortable navigating varying personalities on the board.
“I’m a negotiator,” she said. “I’m not strongly for or against any issue.
“It’s about keeping a balance.”
Hoffmire agrees communication within the board is lacking.
“It’s been ridiculous,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve done my best to listen to the important things and I feel like I’ve voted the right way.”
And it’s not just about hearing the wants and needs of the community, but also communicating programs that the public might not know are available like kayak lessons and boating safety.
“Communication is one of the real needs,” Hardin said. “I think the fact that the city of Oak Harbor has a pool is something not to lose sight of, it’s a tremendous asset.”
Both candidates have been out trying to educate the public about the upcoming levy renewal. Brown has been using materials leftover from previous levies and standing outside of stores.
“The feedback I got from the public has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said.
Hardin started a small levy committee and has been collecting donations from pool patrons to purchase more signs and other promotional materials.
“We’re willing to do it ourselves,” she said. “I think word of mouth is the best in a small community.