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Rowlands challenges Shelton at last minute

"William Rowlands describes himself as the reluctant candidate -- someone who jumped into the breach at the last second when it looked like Island County Commissioner MIke Shelton would not have an opponent.Rowlands, 60, is a 19-year resident of South Whidbey who filed for office on Friday, the day the filing period closed. He will run as a Democrat against Shelton, a two-term Langley Republican, for the District 1 commissioner position.Rowlands had expressed interest in the position earlier this year when he took Shelton to task over differences in the reconstruction of Glendale Road. But he backed away when Tom Fisher announced he would run. Then, sudden ill health forced Fisher to withdraw.Last Thursday, said Rowlands, he attended a Democratic party function at the home of Grethe Cammermeyer in Langley. He was one of five who spoke at the gathering, and he said Monday that the support he found there convinced him to file on Friday.Grethe wrote me a check, he said. I filed because of all the support I got that night.Rowlands has been a professional, self-employed civil engineer and real estate salesman who has played a role in many development projects over the years. Ironically, he's now anti-development. I've managed a lot of development work, he said. I'm like an ex-smoker -- I've seen what happens. He labels Shelton as pro-growth, pro-big business.One reason Rowlands was reluctant to file was his admitted skeletons in the closet. After his second wife suddenly passed away in the early 1980s, he lost a child custody battle with her parents, whom he describes as wealthy. Since then he has refused to make child support payments. He said the case is still active, and he is working on a federal lawsuit in the matter.That legal case also led him to personal bankruptcy, according to Rowlands, and that's another matter of public record that opponents might bring up during the campaign.Rowlands has also been involved in a four-year battle with Island County over a home he wants to build on acreage off Deer Lake Road. He has been denied a building permit due to wetland issues. He claims he is being persecuted because of my open, public criticism of Commissioner Mike Shelton's policies.Today, Rowlands describes himself as divorced and semi-retired, living alone in a temporary residence until he obtains permission to build. He has five children, three of them grown and two still in high school. For his history of public involvement, he cites having been a board member of Citizens for Sensible Development, a contributing member of Greenpeace and the Whidbey Institute, and having worked with the Whidbey Environmental Action Network."

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