Seligson, Adams seek vacant Langley council seat

Two residents with high-powered credentials in business and government who have closely followed the contentious issues facing the city are the first to apply for the vacant position on the five-member Langley City Council.

Hal Seligson, a retired government hospital administrator, and Robin Adams, an international management consultant, are seeking to fill the unexpired Position 2 term of Russell Sparkman, who resigned in early October. The term runs through 2013.

Those interested in the position have until Dec. 13 to submit an application form, resume and a letter to city hall. The council is expected to interview prospective candidates at its Dec. 20 regular meeting, then select and swear in the winner later that same evening.

Hal Seligson

Seligson says his administrative experience and involvement in other volunteer aspects of Langley government make him a good fit for the council.

“I’m able to deal with the job,” he said. “We seem to be in a time of difficulty right now. I think I’d be able to help the city get through this.”

Seligson retired to Whidbey Island eight years ago after 21 years as a senior administrator at the New York State Psychiatric Institute / Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York. He said the job involved a high degree of financial, supervisory and problem-solving prowess.

And his involvement in city projects through the years has kept him well up on current issues facing the council, he said.

Seligson is a former member and chairman of the city’s Planning Advisory Board. He also pushed for the incorporation of low impact development standards and did extensive work on updating the city’s comprehensive plan.

He worked on a well-protection plan to safeguard the city water supply, helped to establish nine gardens with trees on Second Street and a community garden at Langley Middle School, was a member of the first committee to save the Langley Clinic and is a board member of the Langley Community Club.

Seligson also is closely attuned to the recent turmoil at city hall. He was in the forefront of calls for an early state audit of the city’s books in the wake of disclosures regarding Mayor Paul Samuelson’s salary and other city expenditures.

“The truth needs to be there,” he said of his push for an audit, which is under way. “The city will either be vindicated, or things will be found and remedies made. Let the truth be known.”

Seligson said his primary goal is to encourage open government in the city, especially through the use of 21st century technology that could be implemented at little expense.

He proposes, for example, that city council meetings be streamed live on the Internet and broadcast on local radio, and that the city’s new website and other online comment tools be enhanced to allow for the greatest participation possible by city residents.

“We should do whatever we can to fully open government in the city,” he said.

Seligson said he’s all for growth in Langley, so long as it’s done the right way and in accordance with the state’s Growth Management Act.

“It’s Langley’s responsibility to grow responsibly, while keeping the surrounding areas as pristine as we can,” he said.

Seligson said that as a member of the PAB he didn’t deal with the controversial 20-lot development Langley Passage proposal that still remains in dispute.

“A lot of planner time and taxpayer dollars have gone into this,” he said. “The entire matter has gone on far too long.”

Seligson said greater attention should be paid to installing sewers in the Edgecliff neighborhood where Langley Passage is planned, and in other areas of the city, because of the city’s location directly above the aquifer.

“The issue of sewers is something I would pursue,” he said. “I’m very concerned about the quality of water in Langley. That’s the key environmental issue here.”

As for the current state of the city’s economy, Seligson said there’s not a lot that can be done about the recession, but the city can still emphasize economic expansion by working with county commissioners and Port of South Whidbey officials.

“We clearly have expenditures beyond the scope of our current income,” he said. “We have to diversify our economy and explore ways to reduce expenditure and meaningfully enhance revenues. I believe we can do that.”

And he added: “It’s shocking to see the number of vacancies in the city’s commercial real estate compared to Oak Harbor and Coupeville.”

Seligson said he feels he can help the city move forward.

“I’ve got a number of ideas and a fresh point of view,” he said. “I just think I’d be the best choice. Otherwise, I wouldn’t put in for it.”

Robin Adams

Adams likewise touts his professional experience and involvement in local issues as reasons why he would be effective as a city councilman.

A resident of Langley since 2007, Adams is a management consultant with CRU Strategies, which serves the global mining, metals and fertilizer chemicals industries. He said on his application that the job involves economic forecasting, project analysis, financial analysis and utility rate design. He said he also has experience in transportation, economies and shipping.

Adams has kept abreast of city debates, and recently prepared a detailed analysis of the city’s water and sewer services. He has served on a number of public-interest panels, including the comprehensive plan’s bluffs and watersheds committee.

Most recently, he has been in the forefront of deliberations regarding Langley Passage. Adams, a resident of the Edgecliff neighborhood, is one of the leaders in an appeal by the Langley Critical Area Alliance, a group of neighbors and others protesting the proposed development on environmental grounds.

Adams’ job involves considerable international travel; in fact, he was in China this week and unavailable for comment on his city council application. But in his letter to join the council, he said he plans to cut back on travel, and that through teleconferencing he could still participate in meetings. He said that if chosen for the council, he would miss no more than two or three meetings a year.

His application letter includes a detailed account of his views of current issues facing the city, and why he thinks he can help deal with them.

He agrees with Seligson that the Langley Passage process has been too long and too costly.

“We need to look at what happened and substantially streamline the process, while still preserving the rights of all parties involved,” he wrote.

It’s not his first foray into politics. As a young man in his native United Kingdom, he was active in the Liberal Party and stood for election three times in the early 1970s. He immigrated and became a United States citizen in 1976.

He said that he expects his workload to decrease, and plans to spend more time in public service.

“I have always had an interest in this field,” he said in his letter.

Adams wrote that “our city suffers from diseconomies of scale.”

He said the loss of vendors and empty storefronts show that the city is economically stagnate, and that officials need to look long-term.

Adams said the city should work now to remove obstacles to economic expansion, so that when the economy improves, the city will be in a position to move ahead. He said some city policies, however, such as the recent moratorium on building in certain residential areas, have worked against that effort.

“We may be developing an image problem that could, if not corrected, hurt us move significantly in the future,” he said in his letter. “If appointed, I will want to address these ... issues sooner rather than later, so the city is ready for the recovery when it takes place.”

Adams said the city also should work with other agencies to improve additional services that effect the city, such as ferries, courier services and cell-phone reception.

He said Langley’s “Village by the Sea atmosphere” is one of its big selling points because it benefits residents and attracts tourists.

“It is of the greatest importance that we take care to preserve this,” Adams wrote.

But he said something other than traditional design approaches may be needed to reconcile “growth and environmental integrity.”

He said that to accomplish this, city officials need to have “a proactive dialogue” with potential developers and investors. He said he would continue to encourage participation by “the volunteer involvement of the extremely talented and creative design community that we are fortunate to have in Langley.”

“I have the background to provide the business and financial analysis component to the effort,” he added.

Application forms for the vacant city council position are available online at or at city hall.

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