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Helland easily winning reelection in Fire District 3
Two-term incumbent Mike Helland is handily defeating former three-term commissioner Gary Gabelein in the race for another six-year term on the Island County Fire District 3 board of commissioners.
In first returns, Helland was leading with nearly 68 percent of the vote, 2,637, to Gabelein's 32 percent, 1,248.
Helland, 53, of Clinton, and Gabelein, 60, of Bayview, were the top two vote-getters in a contentious four-way primary between Helland and three veteran firefighters for Position 3 on the board.
The election was a referendum on several district issues, especially regarding volunteer recruitment, retention and morale, and the elimination this year of all six part-time paid firefighter positions.
Response times, the efficient use of equipment and the way money has been spent in the district also were issues.
The district is contending with growing pains from a rising retirement population, and it will have a new fire chief in February, when Chief Dan Stout retires.