Langley has existed for 100 years as of 2013 and all is going well.
History has been made with the selection of a new mayor by the city council. As far as anyone knows, this has never happened before. But the process was thoughtful, open and resulted in a capable man at the helm, former South Whidbey School District Superintendent Fred McCarthy.
He takes over a city with fine department heads, dutiful volunteers working on various aspects of government, and a budget that is balanced but hardly bloated. Projects long dreamed of, such as marina expansion and Second Street makeover, are imminent, and others are being dreamed up.
With only 1,200 souls, Langley is a vibrant little city, attractive to islanders and tourists alike. Certainly it has problems, but the problems are addressed by the residents themselves. Rarely this leads to the blame game and recriminations, but for the vast majority of its 100 years, the city has operated smoothly. The founders were visionary to vote for cityhood so they could shape their own destiny.
It’s too bad “visionariness” isn’t contagious, otherwise Freeland would be in better shape today.
Freeland is beautifully situated on Holmes Harbor, it is South Whidbey’s hub for local business and its residential areas are attractive. Plans have been drawn for trails, some of which now exist. Island County, the Port of South Whidbey and volunteers have teamed up to make Freeland Park a waterfront joy for all. But so much more needs to be done.
Freeland has had its visionaries, but never a majority as Langley had back in 1913. They wanted their own city, their own road department, their own police department, their own tax collections and their own planning department. But this vision was always overshadowed by the fear of more taxes, a fear Langley was able to overcome years ago.
As a result we have one independent city and another unincorporated town where decisions are made 25 miles away in Coupeville and major proposals can pass unnoticed for years, such as the proposed $6.3 million low income housing project.
Freeland tried for cityhood once before with a vote in the 1970s that didn’t go well. Is it time to try again? If Freeelanders look at Langley and how it has so successfully handled its own affairs over the past century, the answer may well be yes.