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Thorn seeks re-election

Island County is facing serious budget problems, but Bill Thorn isn't jumping ship. Instead, he wants to serve another four years as an Island County commissioner.

Thorn joined the three-member board after winning election in 1998, becoming the first Democrat in decades to serve on the board. Although a minority on the board, Thorn said last week that he has enjoyed working with Republicans Mike Shelton and Mac McDowell.

"I have an excellent working relationship with Mike and Mac," Thorn said.

He said he shares McDowell's fiscal conservatism, while sharing Shelton's desire to improve human services in the county.

Thorn represents District 3, which includes all of Camano Island and the part of Whidbey Island north of Oak Harbor. While he lives on Camano, as a former Navy officer he feels at home on Whidbey as well. After the Navy, Thorn spent 26 years with Redmond's Rocket Research Corp. as a chemical/aerospace engineer.

In a prepared statement, Thorn cited several of his accomplishments since taking office in January 1999. He said he has worked well with citizens groups to solve "a number of contentious issues" related to the Island County Comprehensive Plan and its development regulations. On Camano, Thorn started monthly town meetings, now in their fourth year, "which opened up county government for residents in a way not previously done," he said.

Thorn also takes some credit for expanding the County Board of Health to include health professionals, reorganizing the Island County Planning Department to include the Community Development group, and enacting ordinances dealing with lighting, signs, cell towers and agriculture, as well as securing land for parks.

Thorn also said the recent decision by the commissioners to halt the use of herbicide sprays along the roadsides was a "long-standing goal" of his.

In the statement, he pledged to continue his support of growth management efforts and business development, while protecting the islands' quality of life.

However, Thorn expects dwindling county resources due to tax limiting initiatives and the slow economy to be the major immediate concern.

"Our greatest challenge over the next few years will be to provide adequate county services in the face of very tight fiscal restraints," he said.

Thorn said the county will probably have to send out layoff notices to some employees later this year, perhaps in September, with layoffs taking effect early next year.

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