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South Whidbey races bring out familiar voices

Discontent with the status quo is inspiring some on South Whidbey to step into the political arena.

Voters are now guaranteed a choice in two-of-three council races in Langley, and in Freeland, critics of the current crop of elected officials will try to unseat two of three incumbent commissioners of the Freeland Water and Sewer District.

Lou Malzone has filed as a candidate for Position 3 on the sewer district’s board of commissioners. The seat is currently held by Nolen “Rocky” Knickerbocker.

Malzone said he has concerns over the district’s plan to expand its sewer system, with Freeland-area residents footing much of the bill.

“The current $40 million sewer project is unworkable from many perspectives: inadequate grant funding support, potentially tax-doubling property assessments, lack of financial benefit, and excessively optimistic population projections for debt repayment,” Malzone said.

“The county and the district have lost the support of the Island County Council of Governments for this project; the city of Oak Harbor has appealed the Freeland Subarea Plan to the growth management hearing board,” he added. “I believe there is an alternate, cost-effective solution to implementing sewers.”

Malzone, 63, has been a Freeland resident since 2003. He retired from a career in  software development and the facilities management business, and had been active in the effort to plan Freeland’s future, including the extensive work needed to complete the Freeland Subarea Plan.

Marilynn Abrahamson has filed as a candidate for Position 1 for the sewer district. It’s a two-year, unexpired term now held by Jim Short.

Abrahamson has lived on Whidbey Island for 40 years, the past 20 in Freeland. She recently retired from 16 years at Everett Community College, and became involved with the sewer district because of the expansion plan.

A member of Property Owners Opposed to Proposed Sewers (POOPS), she helped rally community opposition to the proposed sewer expansion project.

She said she was running “to bring a voice of equity, justice, fiscal responsibility and common sense in planning for Freeland’s future.”

In the three races for the South Whidbey School Board, only one incumbent has filed as a candidate.

School Board Member Steve Scoles said he will run for Position 4, the seat now held by School Board Member Leigh Anderson.

Anderson said she would not run again for family and personal reasons.

“My service to the South Whidbey School District has been very rewarding and I feel like we made some major progress toward laying a solid foundation to improve academic achievement,” Anderson said. “Right now, my family needs me and that is where my first priority lies.”

Scoles, 61, is a retired general contractor and currently owns several off-island businesses.

“If the voters return me for another term, I look forward to building on the recent advances we have made in the school district,” Scoles said. “A new leadership team is emerging, and I hope we can be more collaborative with the community in moving forward.”

Linda Racicot is a candidate for Position 3, the seat now held by School Board Member Rich Parker.

Racicot, 62, is retired, with 27 years of teaching experience in the South Whidbey School District.

She said she wants to help create a plan for the school consolidation effort that will get the support of the entire community.

“We need to look carefully at all options for dealing with declining enrollment and the need for consolidation, and, most importantly, we need to establish criteria with which to look at those options,” Racicot said.

“I would like to help create a  plan that gains the approval of all stakeholders, so that the entire community can unite behind a common goal,” she said.

Damian Greene has jumped into the race for Position 1, the seat now held by Scoles.

Recalling the failure of last year’s $25 million bond measure that would have paid for improvements at South Whidbey High School to accommodate the move of middle school students to the campus on Maxwelton Road, Greene promised to bring new leadership to the board.

Greene, 48, is an insurance agent with long ties to the South End.

“I believe there were many facets to last year’s 57 percent voter rejected bond failure,” he said. “No single issue caused the bond failure more than our current school board themselves, especially in their inability to connect with our teachers, students and community.”

“Not one of our school board members ever attended South Whidbey Schools,” he added. “As one who attended every grade level at South Whidbey, along with my experience in business, education and coaching, I bring a new perspective to the board.”

Other candidates who have filed for office this week include incumbent Don Wood, a commissioner for the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District, and Dennis Gregoire, who is running for Position 1 for the Port of South Whidbey. Incumbent Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert has said he will not seek another term.

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