The announcement that Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen will not run for re-election gives added impetus to the need for qualified candidates for a host of local political offices on November’s ballot.Like all politicians, Cohen has her critics. But her popularity with the people was indisputable and she was considered a shoo-in for another term. By taking herself out of the race, Cohen has left the contest for mayor wide open. Several council members have already expressed interest in the decision. But the door remains open, perhaps for someone with expertise in finance and budgeting, preferably in the private sector. With a list of $90 million worth of dream projects, someone is needed who can re-prioritize Oak Harbor’s budget and knows how to look elsewhere for funding sources.
There’s not much time for potential candidates to sit on the sidelines and twiddle their thumbs. The filing period is next week, June 4 through 8, and after that it’s too late.
Mayor and council positions are open for competition in both Oak Harbor and Coupeville. Just as important are the school boards of the respective communities, where Oak Harbor voters will be deciding on three positions and Coupeville voters on two. Two positions are also up for grabs in the Whidbey Island Public Hospital District.
Fire district races can be heated, and there’s a chance of that happening on the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue board, which has one seat open; and the Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue board, which also has one seat open.
North Whidbey Park and Recreation District’s operations have stabilized over the past few years thanks to improved functioning by its board, but there’s always room for improvement. Two positions are open on that five-member board.
The Port of Coupeville is an important part of Whidbey Island’s local government as it oversees the Greenbank Farm and Coupeville Wharf. Ports have the ability to attract grant funding and private sector development partners, so they can do a lot of good for the community. One port position is up for election this year.
Lower levels of local government often have trouble finding qualified persons to fill positions, so community minded individuals should strongly consider running. Water district problems can be particularly interesting and complex, with demand for water increasing along with regulations. Whidbey Island water districts with at least one board opening include Admirals Cove, Bayview Beach, Crockett lake, Holmes Harbor, Lagoon Point, Ledgewood Beach, Long Beach, North Whidbey, Swantown, Saratoga and Scatchet Head. Penn Cove has two spots open on its water and sewer district.
Even cemetery district boards have been known to have spirited debates. Cemetery District 1 on North Whidbey and Cemetery District 2 on Central Whidbey each have one board position on the November ballot.
Filing for office is a relatively painless procedure. However, you’ll have to bring your checkbook if you plan to run for a paid position as the filing fee is 1 percent of the salary. The most expensive slot is for Coupeville mayor at $600.91, followed by Oak Harbor mayor at $210. Oak Harbor council spots cost $62 for those filing. Indigent candidates can avoid the fees through a petition process. Most other positions are free, as they pay nothing but personal satisfaction.
It is crucial to the Whidbey Island community that it have enthusiastic, qualified candidates from mayor on down to cemetery district commissioner, as all affect our way or life — and death. Be part of the solution by filing for an elective position Monday through Friday, June 4 through 8, at the Island County Auditor’s Office in Coupeville. For more information call 679-7366.