The Port of Coupeville has a new District 3 commissioner

Martin Vandepas, a farmer, has been chosen as the Port of Coupeville’s District 3 commissioner.

The Port of Coupeville Board of Commissioners chose Martin Vandepas, a farmer, to be the commissioner of District 3, a role suddenly left vacant by John Callahan shortly after his victory in the 2023 election.

Vandepas landed the job Wednesday, the same morning he was interviewed by District 1 Commissioner Marianne Burr and District 2 Commissioner John Mishasek during a special public meeting.

The other candidates were Tammy Murphy — owner of Whidbey Island Markets — and Michael Diamanti — a veteran who has served on the port board in the past. James Mirabile and Angela Ewert dropped their applications.

Following the interviews, the board and Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos discussed the candidates in an executive session, after which both Burr and Mishasek chose Vandepas for his experience and his understanding of the port’s ongoing projects.

In an interview, Michalopoulos called Vandepas “an idea person” for bringing up interesting ideas, such as the possibility of exploring a ferry connecting Whidbey to Camano or creating a farm incubator with shared infrastructure and tools for new farmers who want to start their own farming activity.

Furthermore, Michalopoulos said, Vandepas has asked interesting questions following previous board meetings he’s attended as a member of the public.

“I think the Board of Commissioners made the right decision,” he said. “We’re excited to have Martin be a part of that team and bring his fresh ideas.”

Vandepas, 43, is from Albany, Oregon. In 2019, after being bit by “the farm bug,” he moved to Greenbank in search of more land to farm.

Now, he co-owns the Slow and Steady Farm, a sustainable farm located in Greenbank, and prepares budgets and grant applications as a board member of the Whidbey Island Grown Cooperative, which he joined in January 2023 and became treasurer of in January 2024.

As a peer reviewer for the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program, Vandepas has reviewed grants up to $500,000 each for five grant cycles.

Vandepas’ first meeting as a member of the board will be March 13, and he will be up for re-election at the next general election. In the meantime, the port is working on a variety of projects.

Michalopoulos expects the replacement and rehabilitation of the caps and piles that support the Wharf to be completed by March 11, with the last steps being welding eight new steel piles and attaching them to the Wharf structure.

Two weeks ago, part of the wharf’s bulkhead collapsed due to the storm and is now in need of an emergency repair.

Currently, the port is also trying to get bids to replace or enhance the wharf’s septic and sewage system. Monday, the port will meet with an architect and structural engineers to discuss the replacement of the wharf’s siding, windows and doors, a project Michalopoulos hopes will start on Sept. 15.

The pond at Greenbank Farm, used for fire suppression, is also being rehabilitated due to sediment accumulation and because the vegetation was so thick it caused the sides of the ponds to collapse. Once restored, the pond can also be used for agricultural purposes.