Political hopefuls give pitches to Freeland Chamber

Bob Hezel listens to fellow South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District candidate Captn Blynd speak at a political forum in Freeland on Tuesday. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Bob Hezel listens to fellow South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District candidate Captn Blynd speak at a political forum in Freeland on Tuesday.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Election season kicked off on South Whidbey this week with six candidates attending a Freeland Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Though only briefly speaking — about seven minutes — to a small crowd of 25 people, including the candidates, it was a prelude to several upcoming forums concerning races that will appear on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot.

For five of the candidates at Tuesday’s forum, it was an inaugural taste of the political limelight. Curt Gordon, a commissioner for the Port of South Whidbey, is the only incumbent.

Freeland Chamber member Louis Muniz moderated the event, asking each candidate two questions. The port candidates were the most divergent, with Ed Jenkins being heavily critical of both port commissioners and district projects, such as the marina.

“I feel like we have systemic failure at all levels of Island County government,” he said, later adding that he wants to “remove deadwood throughout Island County.”

He argued that the port’s ongoing and highly publicized effort at boosting Island County’s economy — enlarging South Whidbey Harbor in Langley — is a sinking venture. Gordon, the port district’s president, is a stalwart supporter of the $2.4 million South Whidbey Harbor project. Jenkins rejected the claim that adding dock space in Langley would result in economic prosperity throughout the district.

Gordon highlighted his accomplishments as a commissioner, such as securing funding for RADAR speed signs along Highway 525 in Clinton, often a rush as commuters unload from the ferry.

The lifelong South Whidbey resident said he has also worked to promote the necessity of overnight parking in Mukilteo so visitors can leave their cars on one side and travel to Whidbey as walk-on ferry passengers. With fewer cars to congest the ferry lane in Clinton, said Gordon, more people are likely to tour and spend time on Whidbey Island.

“The ferry itself is a bottleneck,” Gordon said.

Surfing, synergy

Captn Blynd and Bob Hezel made one of their first public appearances together as South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District commissioner candidates. Blynd touted his attendance at monthly parks board meetings this year and his plan to bring new ideas to parks business.

“Help me, help you — community synergy,” Blynd said.

Hezel cited his connection with parks, having grown up on South Whidbey and knowing what young people and families want from the parks district.

“I have kids of my own that I would like to have opportunities like other kids have,” Hezel said.

He hopes to promote the area’s outdoor attractions, such as surfing on the west side of Whidbey, and mountain biking and hiking through the parks.

“There’s surfing at Ebey State Park,” Hezel said of the Central Whidbey park, which is not in the parks district’s jurisdiction. “It’s awesome.”

Blynd wants to bring all recreational clubs and activities under the umbrella of South Whidbey Parks and diversify its offerings.

“More things to do equals more money in the local economy,” he said.

Eager educators

South Whidbey School Board candidates Betty Bond and Rocco Gianni, both retired teachers, also participated and offered their takes on educational leadership.

Gianni relied on his recent experience as a teacher to show himself as someone in tune with what children need from school district leadership.

“I want to make kids happy, community-centered citizens,” he said.

Bond described herself as a teamwork-oriented leader and someone who would strive to seek “data-driven” changes.

“I would lobby long and hard to make sure every single child in every single classroom gets the best possible education,” she said.

Ballots go out in mid-October and are due Tuesday, Nov. 5. The South Whidbey Record and the Clinton Progressive Association will hold another forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, at the Clinton Community Hall.


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