Oh what a relief it is. We’re not talking about Alka-Seltzer, we’re talking about the new Republican on the Island County Board of Commissioners.
Jill Johnson, Republican from Oak Harbor, took over this month from Democrat Angie Homola, whom she defeated at the polls in November. Being a Republican, Johnson will likely lighten up on Homola’s environmental activism and spend more time promoting growth, which is fine. That’s probably what the majority wanted.
But what sets Johnson apart is her rational brand of Republicanism, which is as refreshing as it is traditional. There’s no comparison between her and incumbent Republican Kelly Emerson from District 3, who should more rightly be described as a Tea Party member, not a member of the Republican party.
The first difference between the two Republicans came last week when the county had to decide on accepting the donation of 300-feet of prime waterfront at Mutiny Bay from Frank Robinson, who was raised here and went on to found a helicopter company in California. Emerson was against it on the lame premise that it would reduce taxes collected by the county. Besides, Tea Party members to a large extent are against public ownership of property.
Johnson had the good sense not to turn down this invaluable gift of waterfront to the people of Whidbey Island. It is a rare beach of pure sand — white in the summer — which already has a public boat launch and public parking area. Accepting this tremendously generous offer from the Robinson family was a no-brainer, at least for someone who isn’t an ideologue. She joined Democrat Helen Price Johnson in assuring this beach will remain in the public domain forever.
The second issue was Emerson’s desire to serve as chairwoman of the Board of Island County Commissioners. It’s usually a rotating position, and it was Emerson’s “turn” last year. She lost her bid because she is facing a minimum $37,000 fine for violating the wetlands ordinance on her Camano Island property.
Johnson struggled a bit more with this issue, not wanting to entirely turn her back on another Republican. But she voted against Emerson’s chairmanship for now, giving her several months to hopefully clear up her legal conflict with county planning officials.
For many years Republicans ran Island County and most of them were sensible people. It’s nice to have another one back on the job.