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Two candidates vie for vacant seat on Langley City Council

Two candidates with a keen interest in land use and the city budget have applied to fill the Position 3 vacancy on the Langley City Council.

Fran Abel, 69, is a longtime resident of Langley involved in small businesses and civic issues. Thomas Gill, 26, a computer technician with Whidbey Telecom, grew up in Langley and is making a second attempt at joining the council.

Council members will interview the pair during Monday’s city council meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at city hall on Second Street. The winner will be chosen after the interviews, and will become the fifth member of the council immediately.

The winner will fill the unexpired four-year term of former council member Jim Recupero, who resigned this past month.

Abel has lived in the Langley area for 26 years. She started with a small garden center in Langley, and currently operates her own landscape-design business. She has a business administration degree from the University of California-Sacramento. She and her husband Ed Anderson have a grown son, Brad.

Abel has been a member of several civic boards, and 12 years ago, running as a Democrat, she lost a close race for county commissioner against Mike Shelton.

A current member of Langley’s Historic Preservation Commission, she also has served on the city’s Design Review Board. She said that, after a four-year break, it was time to get back to action.

“It’s been a commitment of mine to be politically involved in my community,” she said Friday.

Both candidates said the two biggest issues facing the city are land use and the budget. The city is in the midst of a detailed update of its subdivision and zoning codes, and like other municipalities is battling the effects of dwindling revenue.

“Land use is a big issue for me,” Abel said. “There’s always conflict between growth and environmental concerns. There’s always friction there.”

As for budget issues: “A small city like Langley needs to be particularly careful,” she said. “It doesn’t have a lot of money, but it has a lot of responsibility.”

Gill has paid close attention to his hometown politics since returning to the island.

He has attended almost every city council meeting since early 2009, and challenged Councilman Russell Sparkman in last November’s elections.

Gill is nearing completion of a computer-engineering degree from Kettering University in Michigan.

He said of the council vacancy: “I was going to continue to contribute to the community. This came up, and I saw an opportunity.”

As he did last year, Gill emphasizes the need to encourage denser development within the city to discourage suburban sprawl surrounding it.

As for the economic issue: “Our income isn’t what it could be. We might have to start looking at cutting more then we have.”

“If you don’t have a balanced budget, you can’t run the city,” he added.

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