Voters to weigh in on port race, fire district position and transit tax increase

The races for South Whidbey port district and Island County Fire District 3 commissioners, and Island Transit’s request for an increase in the sales tax, are coming down to the wire.

Tuesday, Aug. 18 is Primary Election Day, and county officials are recommending voters mail their ballots on Monday. Ballots postmarked no later than Tuesday will be accepted, but voters are warned that local post offices have different final pick-up times.

County Auditor Sheilah Crider said voters have another option.

“We will have a ballot drop-off point at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” she said.

The candidates trying to replace outgoing Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle representing Langley, are Dean Enell, Herb Helsel and Chris Jerome. All three are running hard on a platform of economic development for the port district. The two with the most votes will face off in the Nov. 3 general election.

Enell, 61, has lived on South Whidbey for 20 years. After earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington, he spent his working life as a software engineer for the aerospace industry and worked at Boeing. He is now retired.

Helsel, 72, owns Langley Clock and Gallery and served as a community representative during the harbor negotiations between the city and port last year.

Jerome, 54, is a native of London, England. Today, Jerome is a scientific consultant who does medical research from his home in Langley. He keeps a 24-foot sailboat at the marina and is an avid kayaker.

Meanwhile, four candidates are vying for a seat on the Fire District 3 board of commissioners.

The top two vote getters will face off in the general election Nov. 3.

Mike Helland, of Clinton, the Position 3 incumbent who is seeking a third term, faces challenges from three candidates with decades of fire-service experience between them.

The challengers are Don Carscadden and Frank Mestemacher of Freeland, and former fire district commissioner Gary Gabelein of Clinton.

Carscadden, 61, a resident of South Whidbey since 1996, has nearly 34 years in active fire service with Snohomish County, Mountlake Terrace and the Port of Seattle, That service includes 10 years as a volunteer with District 3.

He has owned and operated Island Crane Services in Freeland for the past two years.

Gabelein, 60, is a South Whidbey native and former three-term District 3 fire commissioner.

Retired from Washington State Ferries after 28 years as a ferry captain, he and his wife, Janie, run a bed-and-breakfast in the Bayview area.

Gabelein has been involved with District 3 for 38 years as a firefighter, battalion chief, emergency medical technician and instructor, as well as 18 years as commissioner.

Helland, 53, of Clinton, a South Whidbey resident for 34 years, has been a volunteer firefighter in the district, and has been a member of the board of commissioners for the past 12 years. He has also been the manager of the Clinton Water District for 17 years.

Mestemacher, 65, has been a District 3 volunteer for 14 years, the past five years as station captain in Freeland.

He has a master’s degree from San Jose State University in California, and runs the carpentry program at Seattle Central Community College.

All registered voters who live in the district can vote on each commissioner position.

The volunteer-based district has six full-time employees, about

100 volunteers and a budget of about $1.8 million.

Facing rising fuel prices and declining sales-tax revenue, Island Transit’s free-to-ride bus system is asking for an increase of three-tenths of 1 percent; it needs a simple majority to pass.

Currently, Island Transit receives six-tenths of 1 percent tax on retail sales in Island County. Transit officials said that, should the measure fail, Saturday service will be cut and 33 percent of current routes will be reduced or eliminated.

Roy Jacobson contributed to this story.

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