In the midst of a global pandemic, we need reliable, compassionate government representatives who have the capacity to understand how government works.
There are nine candidates running for two county commissioner positions; one candidate bowed out already. One position is for District 1, which covers South and Central Whidbey, and another for District 2, which is the greater Oak Harbor area.
The Aug. 3 primary will narrow the races to two candidates apiece.
FOR DISTRICT 2, the choice is easy. The candidates who most exemplify the necessary qualities are the incumbent, Jill Johnson, a Republican, and community advocate Fe Mischo, who is a Democrat.
Johnson is at the end of her second term in office and has proven to be smart, hard-working and outspoken. She can be strident at times, but chalk that up to a passion for what she believes. She is especially fervent in her support for the Navy presence on Whidbey Island.
But Johnson gets things done. She has built statewide relationships and worked to bring funding to the county — including a facility that will open soon — to help people with mental health and substance abuse problems. She started an affordable housing task force and proposed pooling county and city CARES Act funds into a grant program for businesses.
Mischo is the kind of public official who is needed in a time of uncertainty and pain. As a busy advocate and someone who was once homeless, she understands the challenges facing regular people and how meaningful government assistance can be.
Mischo’s volunteerism has included the Community Health Advisory Board, the District Parents Advisory Committee, the Housing Project Network, the library board, Autism Partnership of Island County and PFLAG.
Democrat Christopher Reed, a small business owner, promotes and represents working-class citizens. He has some good ideas, but should find ways to get involved in local government or advocacy to build on his resume before running for the top elected position in the county.
Dan Evans, a Republican, is not a good choice. His top financial supporter is Scott Thompson, who wanted to build his large Wright’s Crossing development in the county in violation of county codes. Thompson appealed over and over and lost in court each time. Thompson very publicly criticized Johnson for not bending the rules for his proposed development and threatened to find a candidate to replace her.
It appears Evans is that candidate.
As the old adage goes, “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.”
Thompson is also being investigated for alleged assault and malicious mischief and wrote misogynistic and angrily nonsensical comments about Johnson on Facebook. Meanwhile, Evans has done nothing to distance himself from this Nevada developer, and he can’t be bothered to return calls from newspaper reporters.
Not a good sign for someone who is seeking to represent the public.
IN THE DISTRICT 1 RACE, Curt Gordon and Melanie Bacon are both great candidates. They understand the complexities of government policies, processes and budgets.
Gordon, who is an Independent, is a commissioner on the Port of South Whidbey and was on the Parks and Rec board before that. He ran for county commissioner twice before and spent a great deal of time educating himself about county government. He’s calm, thoughtful and understands the minutia of county codes and policies like no one else.
Bacon, a Democrat, is the human resources director of the county and is privy to the internal mechanics of county government. She is well educated about the issues and has specific and even bold ideas about improving the county, such as starting an affordable housing trust fund.
Former Island County planner Nathan Howard is smart, well spoken and would also make a good commissioner, especially with his extensive knowledge of planning, transportation and green buildings. Yet his focus on “changing the culture” of county government is too vague and meaningless. Residents who are hurting and need help really don’t care if planners aren’t getting the full level of respect they feel they are due.
Damian Greene, a Republican, has been an asset during his many years on the South Whidbey School Board. As a lifelong member of the community, he undoubtedly cares a great deal. He believes in stewardship, but his thoughts on issues like homelessness do not represent his district and don’t support the good work the county is doing.
Greene has said current programs for helping the homeless, particularly those people with mental health and addictions problems, aren’t successful and are enabling.
Ed Jenkins, who is a “no party” candidate, is apparently running because of a grudge against Gordon.
Jenkins has unsuccessfully run against Gordon in every race Gordon has been in during the last 11 years, which are quite a few.
Jenkins has some strong opinions and interesting ideas, but in a recent forum he — somewhat hilariously — was able to turn his answer on any subject into an insult against Gordon.
He would be the fun choice, but he’s not the right one for the job.
Our recommendation is that voters advance Johnson, Mischo, Gordon and Bacon to the general election races for Island County commissioner.