Langley mayor picks members for Parks and Open Space board

Langley Mayor Paul Samuelson has picked five members for the new and much anticipated Parks and Open Space Commission.

The members to be appointed are Langley residents Michael Cramer, Nancy Rowan and David Schmidt, and non-residents Cary Peterson and Leah Green, who both live in Langley’s urban growth area.

The appointments will be made official Wednesday night at the city council meeting at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

Some of those interviewed but not selected were the people that were the most vocal when the open space issue came up during last year's rewrite of the city's growth plan.

Not picked were Marianne Edain of Whidbey Island Environmental Network; Eric Levine, who was the author of a controversial comp plan proposal to save 85 percent of open space for new development within the urban growth area; Langley activist Gail Fleming; and Rebecca Sundberg.

“We interviewed nine candidates, all with a strong desire to help the city develop a plan for enhancing our parks and open space," Samuelson said. "It was a difficult decision having to say 'no' to four of the candidates.”

The candidates were interviewed by a team that included Samuelson, Councilwoman Rene Neff, who will be the council liaison to the commission, and the commission’s staff lead, community planner Fred Evander.

“I was looking for a five-member commission that would have a diversity of perspectives and would work well together as a team,” Samuelson said. “Identifying our parks and open space needs, having a plan to protect the most critical lands and being good stewards of city lands is important to the quality of life in Langley."

Two commission members are required to have specialized skills related to parks and open space.

Schmidt is an ecologist and horticulturist with an advanced degree in restoration ecology from the University of Washington. He is the owner of Langley Botanical, which provides residential and commercial landscaping and ecological restoration. Schmidt is also a part-time instructor for the Edmonds Community College Horticulture Department where he developed a partnership with the National Park Service to produce and plant restoration plantings for a site on Ebey’s Prairie. He has worked for several years at the Nature Conservancy’s Yellow Island Preserve collecting and propagating native plants.

Peterson is well known for her work with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, for her leadership in 1995 to save the Langley Woodmen Cemetery from being sold by the city, and for planting the lavender along the Fourth Street walkway. She helped form the Friends of the Langley Woodmen Cemetery, which raised funds and organized volunteers to maintain and expand the cemetery to make it financially viable.

Working on the board of directors of the Land Trust for 13 years, Peterson served on the Lands Committee which evaluates and recommends conservation lands for protection.

Peterson holds a biology degree from the University of Rochester and owned Ecoterra, a local gardening and native plant restoration business.

Rowan was most recently the executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce and is trained as an Island County Master Gardener. She is a relative newcomer to the city and brings a business and marketing background along with a perspective of visitor needs and interests.

Green was the chairwoman of the housing committee for the Langley comprehensive planning process and also served on the Comp Plan Integration Committee. She has a background as a therapist and organizational consultant.

Cramer just retired from the South Whidbey School District after teaching for 25 years. He is the land manager for Waterman Enterprises which owns and manages forest lands on South Whidbey. Through the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Cramer has been completing courses in forest stewardship.

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