Farmer beats environmentalist in busy election

"The farmer beat the environmentalist in what was by far the the biggest Conservation District election ever held on Whidbey Island.People from all over the island swarmed to the Island County Courthouse to vote on Thursday. No absentee ballots were allowed.Unofficial results showed Coupeville farmer Len Engle with 605 votes to 391 for well known South Whidbey environmentalist Marianne Edain.Benye Weber, manager of the Whidbey Island Conservation District, said such elections usually attract 250 to 300 voters. This is the highest turnout we've had, she said.The electorate was polarized between property rights advocates and environmentalists, with many of the latter coming from South Whidbey to vote.It was pretty amazing, actually. It was a mob scene, a party, said Edain, who took the loss in good spirits. I'm pretty sure Len is jubilant. He pulled out all the realtors and property rights advocates.Engle, talking on a cell phone as he worked in his pea field, said, It came out good. I want to thank all the people who came out to vote -- for me or against me.Engle said he and supporters circulated a letter and sent emails as part of his campaign. The letter stressed his long ties to the land and Edain's association with what he considers extreme environmental causes. They want more mainstream people, not off on the extreme, he said. The landowners have spoken.Both the winner and loser took pride that their campaign made people aware of the Conservation District. The district is headed by a five-member board charged with educating landowners about possible water pollution problems and soil conservation techniques.Although they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, Edain and Engle hold some common views on the district's future.For example, both agree it would be a good idea to put the Conservation District election on a regular ballot so more people could vote. And both favor adopting a small property tax to give the district some operating money.Engle described the tax as real small, very minimal, but it's real important. There needs to be some basic funding. He said he will ask his fellow board members to put the tax request on some future ballot.Edain was the incumbent, and although she lost her seat her interest in Conservation District issues has not waned. Past board members are typically given the title of associate supervisor, she said. I'll ask to be an associate supervisor so I can continue to be involved."

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