Morrison means business in commissioner race

Yet another candidate has thrown a hat into the ring for Island County Commissioner District 1.

Wayne Morrison has entered the race to be the Island County commissioner for District 1.

Yet another candidate has thrown a hat into the ring for Island County Commissioner District 1.

Clinton Republican Wayne Morrison recently announced his plans to unseat incumbent Democrat Helen Price Johnson. That brings the total number of candidates seeking the seat to four.

Also vying for the position are Central Whidbey Republican Jeff Lauderdale, a retired U.S. Navy commander, and Clinton Independent Curt Gordon, a business owner and Port of South Whidbey commissioner.

The sole Democrat in the race is the incumbent, Helen Price Johnson.

Morrison, 63, has been on Whidbey Island for more than 20 years. Married with five children, the general contractor and landscaper is the owner of Morrison Company and Blue Star Rockery.

He also serves as president of the Island County Economic Development Council’s board of directors. If elected, Morrison said he hopes to improve the business climate and work on job creation.

“I’d like people to be able to make a living in Island County,” he said.

Morrison has a long and varied business background. Born and raised in Enumclaw, he attended what is now Western Washington University and finished with a bachelor’s degree in business and a minor in economics.

He would go on to work for a plethora of large corporations. He held positions ranging from safety engineer at the Hartford Insurance Group and director of risk management at TransAmerica to spending 10 years with General Motors, where he worked to set up an international insurance company for the car manufacturer and managed a $75 million investment portfolio.

“I’ve got a lot of global experience,” Morrison said. “I have found Whidbey Island to be the hardest place to do business I have ever been and I’ve been to a lot of places.”

Morrison said he came to Whidbey for family purposes and because he was tired of “chasing the big career.” He describes himself as a working man who believes in “property rights, environmental protections, a balanced budget for a smaller government and due process.”

Morrison said he wants to make Whidbey a better place to live, citing a more flexible regulatory environment that could pave the way for the creation of additional low income housing.

Addressing hot button issues such as the county’s Clean Water Utility, a fee collection program adopted in 2010 to fund specific surface and ground water programs, Morrison said “the administrative procedures set up to do that are misguided,” and that the issue should have been put before voters rather than approved by the board of commissioners.

Morrison said he doesn’t have a list of things he plans to do immediately if elected, saying it will take a little time to settle in and learn the lay of the land. It’s easy to spout promises on the campaign trail but there are realities of the job that must be learned.

“You have to understand what’s there before you change it,” he said.

Morrison expects a tough battle for the District 1 position. The Democrats are deeply entrenched and Price Johnson will not be easy to unseat, he said.

With the pending primary race, which takes place in August solely within the District 1 boundaries, the conservative vote will likely be split among the two Republicans.

Gordon, the Independent candidate, will no doubt capture some of those votes as well.

Taken all together, that seems to give Price Johnson a strong chance of proceeding to the November general election.

The top two vote-getters advance regardless of party.

Morrison said he believes he is the best candidate for the job because of an extensive background in business, his ability to see the common ground and 22 years of living and working in Island County.

“I think I can do the job and I think I can do it in spades,” Morrison said.

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