School board member joins race for commissioner

A South Whidbey School Board member is the fourth candidate to pursue the Island County commissioner position Helen Price Johnson is leaving behind.

Damian Greene, a Republican, has been on the South Whidbey School Board for 10 years but is now seeking countywide office. He wants to replace Price Johnson, who announced she is running for state senate, as the commissioner for District 1; the district encompasses South and Central Whidbey Island.

Republican Gary Wray, Democrat Nathan Howard and Democrat Melanie Bacon have already announced their candidacies. At least one other resident is also considering running.

If more than two candidates end up officially filing, the field will be whittled down to the top two in the Aug. 4 primary and then decided in the Nov. 3 election.

Greene said he is running for commissioner because he feels county government can do a better job.

“It can be more responsive to our needs without increasing our tax burden,” he said, adding that he found ways to accomplish things on the school board even when he was told there was no money for it.

“There are ways to be creative and ways to find funding for things that we need,” he said.

Greene said he is deeply rooted in Island County. He is a lifetime resident of Whidbey Island as well as a former small business owner, teacher and coach. He also worked as a locomotive engineer for Burlington Northern.

Greene explained that he first became interested in local politics when the school board started talking about mothballing the Langley Middle School, which he fought against. The school board reversed course in 2011 but ended up voting to close the school in 2017; it is now the well-used South Whidbey Community Center.

Greene threw his hat in the ring when the Republican party was asking for candidates to replace Barbara Bailey after she resigned as state senator; the party chose North Whidbey resident Ron Muzzall.

Several of Greene’s top ideas he envisions for the position aren’t things governed by county commissioners, but he said he can act as an advocate if he’s elected.

He wants to pursue, for example, 24-hour ferry service and overhead loading at the Clinton ferry dock. He supports reducing the response time for South Whidbey Fire/EMS by hiring full-time staff, which will lower insurance costs for homeowners. He has questions about how the county assessor determines property values.

He’s also concerned about the same issues that have challenged commissioners for years. He wants to investigate nationwide success stories when it comes to homelessness and the related issues of mental illness and drug addiction.

Greene said he will continue to pursue grants for sewage treatment plants in urban growth areas. He would like to see online applications for building permits at the county.

“We need a new approach to county government,” he said.