Freeland Water and Sewer District residents have a new commissioner.
John Brunke, an engineer and regular attendee of district meetings, was appointed by unanimous decision Monday to replace Marilynn Abrahamson, who resigned suddenly last week. He was appointed by commissioners Eric Hansen and Lou Malzone during the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting, June 8.
“I can think of no better person than John Brunke,” Hansen said.
Following the vote, Brunke was immediately sworn in and took his seat among the commissioners.
In a later interview, Brunke said he was eager to roll up his sleeves and serve area residents. He said he wants to do “what’s right for the community,” and is interested in helping the district complete a plan to bring sewers to the commercial core.
“This is kinda the last shot,” he said.
Brunke is a familiar face in district affairs and has been for years. He got involved when a $40 million sewer plan was proposed for the greater Freeland area, a plan he characterized as “outrageous,” and after an early publication of the sub-area plan.
“It had a big circle around my house that said, ‘Open space,’ ” Brunke said.
Brunke later served on a district citizen advisory committee that examined Freeland growth estimates. The group’s work indicated the area isn’t growing nearly as quickly as previously thought, findings which may have lasting ramifications for development though their influence of future policy.
“I’ve had my fingers in this a long time,” he said.
Brunke’s appointment was both sudden and immediate. Abrahamson quietly resigned Thursday, June 4, with an email to district staff, and the vacancy wasn’t publicly announced until Monday after noon when a district official called The Record to say that Brunke would likely be appointed that same evening.
Abrahamson’s Freeland phone number has been disconnected, and she did not respond to an email in time for this story, but the resignation she submitted to district staff indicates it may have been imminent for some time.
The following is her resignation email in its entirety:
“Hi, Andy and Terri, this is my formal resignation as commissioner of the FWSD effective upon receipt.
My house in Freeland sold. My main place of residence as of this date is now Arizona.
Thanks for doing such a wonderful job for the district over the last few years. It’s been a pleasure working with you. Will see you when I come up to Whidbey later in June or July to tie up loose ends.
Please forward to the other commissioners. Thanks,
Rumors that Abrahamson was moving began to swirl around town more than a month ago, but when asked by a Record reporter she said she had a change in housing but was adamant that she wasn’t stepping down.
Abrahamson and Malzone were elected with overwhelming support in 2011 following community controversy over the $40 million sewer plan.
In an interview before Monday’s meeting, Malzone said he was also surprised by Abrahamson’s sudden resignation, saying he’d fully expected her to remain in office for the foreseeable future. She’d previously said she wanted to see the district’s current commercial core sewer project through, he said.
He also noted Brunke’s appointment was no sure thing, that the decision would be up to the board to move forward without first seeking resumes from the public for the elected position. However, he said the district is in the middle of a time-sensitive sewer project, and that he supported moving forward right away.
“I have no problem appointing someone tonight,” he said, before the meeting. “There is no requirement to advertise.”
Under state law, vacated non-partisan positions can be filled by appointment through public or private recruitment. Brunke’s expertise and his past service and work with the district make him a great candidate, he said.
“He’s a natural,” Malzone said.