Election season has exposed a rift between Oak Harbor City Council and the city administration that is deep and getting deeper.
The motivations and loyalties are difficult to parse, but ultimately Shane Hoffmire and Fe Mischo are the best candidates because they are independent thinkers who want to make the city better for everyone while their opponents have made efforts to support one developer.
But if they do win, the two candidates, particularly Hoffmire, shouldn’t be blind to problems in city hall, which is run by an administration that has undeniably been the least open and communicative in the last 25 years — despite having a public information officer on the payroll for the first time.
Candidates Brian Stucky and Earl “Andy” Plumbee haven’t been part of the political melee, yet Stucky is the right candidate because he has shown that he has a grasp on how city government works and will bring a sense of calm to city politics.
Mayor Bob Severns set off the fireworks three weeks ago by endorsing Shane Hoffmire and Fe Mischo over incumbent Joel Servatius and businessman Dan Evans. It was unexpected because Severns had never endorsed anyone before and he had worked with Servatius for years, even helping him in an earlier campaign.
Severns said he was concerned about candidates being beholden to rule-bending developers and wanted independent voices on council. Both Evans and Servatius have ties to controversial developer Scott Thompson, who unsuccessfully tried to build the large Wright’s Crossing housing development and whose development next to Walmart is stalled for unclear reasons.
Not long afterward, Servatius publicly raised concerns about the city administration, particularly City Administrator Blaine Oborn, after the top two people in the legal department quit because of differences with Oborn and the human resources director. The council held a lengthy executive session and passed an extraordinary motion of no confidence in Oborn, claiming that he was at fault for an exodus of staff and had overstepped his authority.
Obviously, criticizing Oborn is also criticizing the mayor.
Severns has continued to support the city administrator. Oborn offered a defiant response, claiming that the council members were mad at him because he told staff to follow the law when it comes to development and they are the reason so many staff members have left.
Into this mess, the city needs new council members with as little baggage as possible. Hoffmire is energetic and open, though perhaps a bit starstruck by the mayor’s support.
As a community advocate, Mischo will help the council focus on helping the less fortunate.
And as a planning council member and a member of the Help House board, Stucky brings knowledge of both complicated rules of development and the needs of the community.