Colburn stresses experience as councilman

Colburn -
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At age 55, Neil Colburn is the youngest — and most experienced — member of the Langley City Council. It was the acknowledgement of his experience that made Colburn decide it was his turn to step up to the plate to run for mayor.

“I think that when it comes to running the city, I offer continuity,” Colburn said in an interview Monday.

Colburn is perhaps best known to many on South Whidbey for his family restaurant — Neil’s Clover Patch Cafe — which has become a dining mainstay over the last 20 years.

Before Colburn came to Whidbey Island, he served four years in the Navy. His life on Whidbey Island began over 20 years ago when he owned and operated Shelterwood Forestry, a concern he called an “environmentally friendly” logging company. He said the company owned a saw mill, thinned lots to clear space for homes, and turned the logged trees into lumber for the houses to be built on the cleared lots.

Colburn also spent almost three years behind the counter as a chef at Buzz’s Wharf, now called Bush Point Restaurant.

He said it was the sense of community that attracted him, along with wife Candace and son Will, to Langley.

“We moved there because that’s where we wanted to raise Will,” said Colburn.

His priority, should he be elected mayor, will be to reestablish and increase the levels of communication between the city government and the citizens, and between the councilmembers and mayor.

“I really want to increase the in-house communication in city government,” Colburn said.

Two of Colburn’s largest concerns are how Langley will develop the Small Boat Harbor, and how to accommodate growth in the future.

New plans to expand the Small Boat Harbor have Colburn fighting to keep the facility localized for area residents, and not focused on accommodating rich tourists.

“That’s not what Langley’s about, and I’m concerned about that,” he said.

Colburn said he wants to protect access for the “little guy” and make sure local boaters and anglers have a place to launch and store the boats — as well as fish — within their community.

Talking about recent growing pains that have played themselves out before the Langley City Council, Colburn said there has been a lot of concern among South Whidbey residents that growth be carefully managed and controlled.

“Growth has been tough to deal with,” he said, pledging work to ensure that the small-town feel and quality of life of Langley is maintained.

Since he joined the Langley City Council in 1989, Colburn said he has supported many issues he feels were important, including levys and bonds for the school district, maintaining a downtown commercial core in Langley, remodeling of the Langley Library and keeping the post office downtown, to name a few.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done,” said Colburn.

During the last six months, during which Colburn declared his intention to run for mayor, he has been training the staff at the restaurant to operate without his constant attention. This would allow him to devote time to working as Langley’s mayor.

While owning a restaurant and acting as mayor could seem like a large bite to swallow, Colburn hopes he’s shown he can handle it.

“That was a concern,” he said about the possibility of being mayor and owning a business at the same time. “I think I’ve proven that I have the time and the energy.”

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