Democrat announces run for District 2 commissioner seat

A self-described “lawn guy” is vying for a seat on the Board of Island County Commissioners in the 2020 election.

Democrat Christopher Reed is running for the District 2 position, currently held by Commissioner Jill Johnson.

Johnson, now in her second term, said she hasn’t decided whether she’ll seek re-election.

“I’ll do a lot of reflection on what I really want to do,” she said. “I want to make sure I’m making the right decision for my family and for the community,” she added.

Reed, who owns Barnavit Industries in Oak Harbor, said he decided to run for office to solve problems that he sees “instead of complaining about it on Facebook.”

The lifelong Whidbey Island resident said he hopes to focus on de-regulating small businesses, homelessness and the opioid crisis.

He grew up in Greenbank, graduated from Coupeville High School, lived in Freeland and moved to Oak Harbor in 2015.

Johnson grew up in the city and graduated from Oak Harbor High School. She worked off island for a little more than a decade before returning to Whidbey to work at Whidbey Island Bank and then as executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Johnson was first elected in 2012 and has focused on affordable housing and mental health support. She spearheaded the formation of a task force to look into the housing crisis and is an advocate for a new mental health and chemical dependency crisis stabilization center to be built in Oak Harbor.

Reed said his low-income background and history of working blue-collar jobs instilled a work ethic that would serve him well as commissioner.

“I’m not establishment,” he said. “I’m a worker bee.”

He’s held a variety of jobs, including changing oil, mowing lawns, working on assembly lines, serving as labor foreman and is now running a commercial lawn care business.

He lives in the city with his wife Jessica, son Gabriel, 13, and his elderly mother. After a lifetime of manual labor, he said recent injuries caused him to consider other careers. Within the last few years, he started reading and absorbing information about policy and politics in the U.S.

He said he’s willing to work with people of all political leanings and opinions to find solutions, and he believes there could be more partnership with the Navy to address housing and jet noise concerns.

He also wants to elevate the voices of community members to get their ideas to state and federal leaders.

“I’m the kind of guy that will walk around all day and talk to these people,” he said.

Johnson has maintained steadfast support of the Navy and its activity at Outlying Field Coupeville. After the state attorney general announced a lawsuit this summer over the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement process, she asked the local Economic Development Council to respond to the action and advocate for the county’s top employer.

Johnson has described herself as a moderate Republican and independent thinker.

Reed said he aligns mostly Democrat, but he isn’t liberal.

“I vote for what I think is right, whether or not that agrees with my party,” he said.

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