Oak Harbor City Council has selected a mental health professional to fill its empty seat.
Chris Wiegenstein will replace Dan Evans, who resigned April 5. Wiegenstein will serve at least until the results of the Nov. 7 general election are certified on Nov. 28. He and two other candidates filed to run for Position 2, which is currently Beth Munns’ seat.
Wiegenstein is the board president of Whidbey Homeless Coalition and owner and counselor of Cradlestone, an individual and family therapy office in Oak Harbor. He is an elected member of the board of North Whidbey Pool, Park and Recreation District and a board member for the Oak Harbor Youth Coalition.
At Wednesday’s workshop, Wiegenstein said he wanted to serve on city council because he wants to support Oak Harbor in any way he can and keep it viable for all citizens. He said he is particularly interested in bringing awareness to and destigmatizing mental health issues. He said homelessness is a prominent issue he wants to work on, along with addiction “but there’s no easy answer,” he said.
“As a mental health professional in this community and my years of doing this really, I think, brings another level of service to the table that we don’t typically see and it would be an asset to Oak Harbor,” he said.
He would like to see a performing arts facility or recreation complex to grow the city’s economy.
In an interview with the News-Times, Wiegenstein said he thinks the mental health crisis is the biggest issue in the city. He thinks creating a community gathering space and holding more events that bring people together in the off season would help. He said he would be supportive of growing recreation programs which increase both the physical and mental health of residents.
He wants to bring more housing, especially workforce housing, to the city. This would also help to bring more mental health professionals to the area, he said.
At the meeting, council members interviewed three other candidates along with Wiegenstein.
John Chaszar is a member of the city’s planning commission board, a substitute teacher for Oak Harbor public schools and an executive member of the nonprofit, Citizens for Better Schools. He said that he’s had leadership roles for over 30 years in the hospitality industry and managed budgets of over $150 million.
Chaszar said there was not one particular issue he was running on, but he was passionate about youth and education and providing a higher quality of life to all citizens. He thought low-income housing was a vital issue.
As far as economic development, he said he believed in the “trickle down effect” and if the city provided incentives for people to invest, that would encourage more development in the city. He said the downtown needs to look more attractive to attract tourism.
Barbara Armes was interviewed following Chaszar. She was a licensed practical nurse for over 30 years. She said that she had been interested in local government since she moved to Oak Harbor and has been attending council meetings since January of 2022.
She also said the downtown needed to be improved to draw tourists. She said the city should work together with the Chamber of Commerce and other entities to do so. She thought the city needed more high tech jobs to bring more people to the area.
Wismine D’Avilar, the dean of students at North Whidbey Middle School and founder of the nonprofit Heels and Confidence, was interviewed after Armes. She said her desire to run for city council stemmed from an event that took place at a local business where she said she was treated “like she committed a crime based on the color of my skin.” She said she wanted to be on city council to represent people of color and give them a voice. She said she wants to see more community involvement from council members.
The issue she was particularly passionate about was helping at-risk youth, as well as their parents.
Councilmember Munns made a motion to appoint Chaszar. The motion failed; only she and Stucky voted in approval.
Councilmember Shane Hoffmire then made a motion to appoint Wiegenstein. The motion was approved with only Stucky voting in opposition.