"Superintendent search open, publicThe South Whidbey School Board has done a good job of involving the public in the search for a new superintendent of schools.First, an outside consultant, Dick Smith, was hired to screen applicants. The screening reduced the pool to six, all of whom were brought to South Whidbey to meet with the board and leaders in the schools. Then, that list was further reduced to three finalists, each of whom the public got to meet and question at lively evening forums.Following the forums and after reviewing written comments from the public, the board decided to visit the work places of the final two choices. It appears the next superintendent of South Whidbey schools will be either Greg Cowan, an assistant superintendent with the Bellingham School District, or Martin Laster, superintendent of the Darrington School District.Both appear fully qualified to lead the South Whidbey School District, so the board faces a difficult choice. Perhaps on the site visits the board will learn something to tip the scales in favor of one or the other.Based on their evening appearances on South Whidbey, Laster may be the best choice. He spoke with passion and humor about education, and his support of the arts was obvious. He's younger than Cowan and it's a plus that his two young children would be attending school in the South Whidbey School District. But whatever final choice the school board makes, they can be proud of their process. It was an open, public process, and citizens had a chance to decide for themselves among three solid candidates. We can't ask for much more than that.People need choice in county electionIsland County Commissioner Mike Shelton does a very good job overall, but that doesn't mean he should get a free ride in the 2000 election.Shelton, a Republican, long ago announced his intention to run for a third term, but to date no Democrat has risen to the challenge. In one respect it's already late in the process, as money raising has to start early. However, the official filing period isn't until the last week of July so there is still time for a serious candidate to find some backing and throw his or her hat in the ring.Shelton hardly won by a landslide in 1996 and now, as then, his Achilles' heel is land use planning. He is open to fair criticism that he's dragged his heels in bringing the county into compliance with the state Growth Management Act, resulting in development that is still out of control.Although the GMA process has gone on for years, it is now at a crucial stage for people living in the Clinton and Freeland areas. In fact, people are finally tuning in after all these years. The first open house in May of the county-appointed Freeland Subarea Planning Committee attracted a huge crowd, almost all concerned about what they see as too much unplanned development taking place in the community.The GMA continues to be a hot issue, and Commissioner Shelton should have to defend his record and ideas in a bona fide election campaign. The Democrats will be letting down the public if they can't produce a solid candidate to run against him."

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