Korrow, Emerson, Morton reflect on city council experiences

Christy Korrow, Peter Morton and Dominique Emerson all decided not to seek re-election last year.

They’ve dealt with everything from dog poop to systemic racism to numerous changes in city staffing.

Together, the three outgoing members of the Langley City Council have a combined 14 years of experience on the governing body of the Village by the Sea.

Last year, Christy Korrow, Peter Morton and Dominique Emerson all decided not to seek re-election for their respective seats on the council. All three were elected in 2017 and served from 2018 to 2021. Korrow and Morton were newcomers to the political arena, whereas Emerson was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council in 2016.

Their involvement in the city of Langley started before their time on the council and will likely extend beyond their years of public service.

Prior to becoming councilmembers, Korrow and Emerson both served on the city’s Planning Advisory Board, which Emerson said she thought was “the cat’s meow.”

As a citizen, Korrow partnered with three others to develop a permanently affordable housing community known as Upper Langley. For four years, she worked closely with city staff on the project.

Morton, who was the oldest member on the council, got his start volunteering as a board member for Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

“I think Langley has probably made more impact on me than I’ve made on it,” he joked.

With their variety of interests, all three departing council members leave behind a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.

Emerson spearheaded the creation of the city’s Public Works Advisory Commission, or PWAC. The citizen-led committee focuses on utility rates, proposed changes of usage and improvement strategies.

She also was a substantial supporter of the Langley Infrastructure Project from the beginning. The project, which is funded by a $4 million bond and a $3 million grant, is intended to provide sewer line connections to East Langley and to improve aging infrastructure that has been in need of repair for several years.

“My hope was, and my hope is, that I’ll bring the potential of sewers and the reduction of rates to all of Langley,” Emerson said.

During her time on the council, Emerson has also been known for her sharp eyes when it comes to the city’s budget. She has relished going through it year after year “with a fine-tooth comb.”

“I love all these numbers and I like understanding it,” she said.

Morton said he often looked to Emerson for leadership. He collaborated with her on the initiative for the large-scale infrastructure project.

“There’s a song written by Beverly Graham. In the lyrics of her song called ‘Common Fire,’ one of the lyrics said, ‘I learn to lead when I learn to follow.’ I think that it’s really interesting to watch the dynamics of how people work together,” Morton said, adding that helping someone to achieve their goal can be just as important as being a leader.

In time, Morton discovered and began pursuing his passion for combating climate change. When students proposed a new city committee dedicated to this topic, Morton wholeheartedly threw his support behind them and helped convene the board, which began meeting just a few months ago.

Korrow cited her participation in updating city code to create more pathways for affordable housing and her commitment to anti-racism as being some of her biggest impacts on Langley. She backed the formation of the Dismantling Systemic Racism Advisory Commission in 2020, which aims to bring about structural change and a more equitable community.

She is actively involved in anti-racism work extending beyond Langley. For one of her jobs, she currently works under the leadership of undocumented immigrants who are social justice activists.

Some of her fond memories of serving on the city council include the day-to-day sidewalk interactions she had with random citizens, who often felt comfortable approaching her with their concerns.

“Sometimes it could be intense, but I felt like it was always my job to listen with an open mind,” she said.

All three outgoing council members agreed that they served together in a harmonious work environment.

“Just knowing that it was okay to vote no when all my other colleagues were voting yes – I think that was a very healthy, working relationship,” Korrow said.

Morton said there was “very little rancor” between council members. When disagreements did happen, he added, nobody took things personally and everyone respected each other’s views.

Emerson said she would never have gotten to know Morton or Korrow if she hadn’t been on the council.

“They’ll be lifelong friends now,” she said. “I think the friendships we have developed among us are just fabulous.”

Although they decided not to run for reelection, the three former council members plan to be involved in some way – at least from afar.

“I find it very hard to believe I won’t continue to track what’s happening at the city,” Korrow said. “I don’t know that I’ll attend every meeting, I don’t know if I’ll sit on a board or commission, but I’m certainly someone who is civically engaged.”

Emerson and Morton both applied for vacancies on the PWAC. If the new city council should decide to create a financial committee, Emerson said she might consider serving on it. Morton is hoping to be the chairperson of the Climate Crisis Action Committee.

As for how they plan to spend their first and third Monday nights of the month, now that council meetings are no longer mandatory attendance? Work commitments, eating dinner and card games were just some of the answers.

“I’m personally looking for a bridge game,” Emerson said with a laugh.