Justin Burnett / The Record — Thomas Gill (left) and Peter Morton (right) are running for position 5 on the Langley City Council.

Morton challenges Gill for Langley City Council seat

A newcomer to politics is up against a longtime Langley resident and incumbent in the race for position 5 on the Langley City Council.

Peter Morton is challenging incumbent Thomas Gill for the seat.

Morton, 80, has lived on Whidbey Island since 2004 and in Langley since 2011. Morton grew up in Costa Rica and later graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as an engineer. He worked his way from the ground up as an employee at Boeing, starting as a ground school instructor but finishing as the aircraft manufacturing company’s vice president of human resources. Morton served on the board of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts for two years, while he’s been on the Museum of Flight and Aviation Accreditation Board International boards.

Events transpiring in Washington D.C. inspired Morton to “do something locally,” while the sanctuary city topic also led him to start attending city council meetings.

“I’ve never done anything civic,” Morton said. “I’ve been civil, but never civic. You could say it’s on my bucket list.”

Morton’s two primary areas of interest are the business sector and the fundamental systems of Langley — mostly infrastructure. Morton said Langley’s infrastructure is good, but expensive, and not all of the city’s residents are connected. He also said that while Langley’s reputation as being “unfriendly to business” is mostly unjustified, changes can be made to the permitting and building process that can help streamline development without unexpected hiccups.

“There shouldn’t be projects being killed,” Morton said.

Another one of his campaign focuses is the environment. Morton, if elected, plans to establish a bluff maintenance plan, create runoff solutions and reduce carbon, electric and water usage while advocating for sustainability practices.

During his doorbell visits with Langley voters, Morton said he repeatedly heard complaints about controlling the noise in Langley. He said he supports what The Machine Shop is doing in terms of making Langley more lively and credited owner Tim Leonard’s diligence in regularly meeting with the city council and members of Langley Association of Neighbors Downtown (LAND).

Morton said he was disappointed the city council didn’t approve a sanctuary city ordinance, but was pleased that an inclusive city resolution was passed. He said he’d like to wait until the right circumstance come along to reexamine the topic.

Gill, 34, has lived in Langley almost all his life. He earned a computer engineering degree from Kettering University and currently works for Whidbey Telecom as a technical support technician. Before he was elected to the city council in 2013, Gill was chairman of the Langley Planning Advisory Board, where he took part in completing the Shoreline Master Plan, finalizing a tree protection ordinance, creating an affordable housing ordinance, mix-use building code and designing the Second Street reconstruction project. He also served on the Langley Library Board and helped guide the library through upgrades, according to his campaign website.

He is currently chairman of the Island County Substance Abuse Coalition, while he’s also the Langley Masonic Lodge’s worshipful master.

Gill’s three major focuses are making Langley more livable, encouraging cultural and business diversification and “working to make the city say, ‘No,’ less.”

He’s also running because there are a few things he’d still like to accomplish, including improving sewer rates and expanding the city’s sewer coverage.

“There’s certainly a lot of people in the area around Langley who don’t have good water,” Gill said. “It would be good for them and the city.”

Gill’s vision over the next 10 to 20 years is making Langley both a hospitable place to live and an attractive destination to visit.

“With all the new infrastructure going in from both Whidbey Telecom and Comcast, it’s going to be a great location for businesses to come in and people to telecommute,” Gill said. “It would help make the city more vibrant, more livable and more visible.”

Gill said Langley doesn’t have much of a “shoulder season” in terms of fluctuation in visitors and is becoming more of a year-round destination. Ensuring Langley isn’t heavily reliant on tourism would also be one of Gill’s focuses, and he plans to help diversify the city’s economy by working on “low impact” industries that are outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan. Gill said the idea, for example, is to bring in agriculture, hydroponic and green-friendly businesses that are much less reliant on economic issues and the sewers.

Gill also believed the city’s inclusive city resolution is sufficient for the time being, but was also glad an ordinance was written so it can be used if needed.

Gill and Morton see eye to eye on a few things.

They are not supporters of President Donald Trump, and they also agree that city hall and the city council could do a better job of being civil and respectful to the public during heated discussions, such as the six-month-long sanctuary city debate. Gill added that this applies to not only the city council and city staff, but also everybody in the community. Gill suggested creating a meeting solely about civility and how to improve any deficiencies in that area. They also agree that changing the perception that Langley is unfriendly to businesses is a priority, and that streamlining the development process is paramount.

Finally, they feel the city’s website is lacking in terms of a user’s ability to access information, such as agendas and minutes, and that the search function is less than adequate. Morton said the website should be far more educational and accessible to citizens.