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Port election down to two

Incumbent Gene Sears and challenger Geoff Tapert will be on the ballot for District 1 South Whidbey Port Commissioner in the Nov. 8 general election.

Both Sears and Tapert received the most votes in the four-way primary race in early ballot tallies from Tuesday’s election.

The Island County auditor’s office reported the following results based on mail-in ballots received by 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 22: Geoff Tapert 464, Gene Sears 309, Wallace Russell 234, Larry Dobrin 199.

Sears, 75, is seeking his third six-year term. This is 39-year-old Tapert’s first try at elective office since moving to Whidbey Island five years ago.

Sears said he thought one of the other challengers beside Tapert would advance to the November race.

“I was surprised Larry (Dobrin) didn’t do much better than that,” Sears said after the election.

“He was by far the best qualified and had shown interest; he was the only one that showed up at our last port meeting,” Sears said.

Tapert was “pleasantly surprised” to be in the lead when he saw the first vote tally.

Tapert led in the initial vote tallies, and he stayed in front as more votes were counted.

“I noticed that the percentage of votes didn’t change from the first results due to the mail-in aspect,” Tapert said.

Now, both Tapert and Sears may look to the two other port candidates who are no longer in the running for their support in the general election.

“I hadn’t thought about it, but that seems a good idea,” Sears said.

Tapert also plans to solicit support from Dobrin and Russell.

“The general message I’m seeing can be summed up in one word: inclusion,” Tapert said. “We need to get everyone to the table to help solve current and future problems.”

Sears is proud of his years as port commissioner. He wants to continue helping the the county develop “by getting some of the cars traveling up and down the main road (Highway 525) to stop,” he said. “Well-designed and built parks and boat ramps certainly add to the island’s appeal and that’s what the port does.”

And he’s ready to tangle with the challenger.

“I’m not sure if Geoff’s platform on affordable housing will hold up. There’s a question as to whether the Port can do that legally,” Sears said.

Tapert agrees that the port plays a part in the Island economy, and affordable housing is part of that debate.

“I brought that up as an issue relating to the economy. Gene may be right that it isn’t within the Port’s purview,” Tapert said. “My view is that the port should be more of a landlord, a revenue-generator that can help South Whidbey’s economy at different levels.”

Tapert served on the City of Everett’s planning commission before moving to the island five years ago with his wife, Alison, and their two children. Alison Tapert is the chairwoman of the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, while her husband runs X-Sound Engineering, Inc., a firm that specializes in structural engineering and land-use consulting.

Voters can learn more about the candidates at a forum sponsored by the South Whidbey League of Women Voters, 7 p.m. Oct. 6 in the fireside room of Freeland’s Trinity Lutheran Church

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