Sound Off | Won’t be seeking second term: You too can make a difference through public service

I was born in Jamaica 84 years ago and grew up in Costa Rica, was raised by white American parents with Black and Hispanic maids and took for granted this was the natural state of things.

After 42 years at Boeing I moved to Whidbey and spent 20 years consulting and volunteering locally, regionally and nationally in aviation. My focus of late was to inspire youth to pursue a career like mine. A rather narrow perspective.

Four years ago, after witnessing the 2016, election I was feeling “what can I do?” I could not affect the national scene but woke up to public service in local politics by running for and being elected to the Langley City Council.

My 2017 election opponent was a long standing, dedicated, insightful and effective contributor to Langley in many capacities, and I give silent thanks he was re-elected to the Langley Council in January 2020; his wisdom always influences and often prevails in our decisions.

The first council meeting in January 2018 started my public service education, and each season brings more understanding about how we make a small village thrive.

Now, with the Black Lives Matter and other movements, my education continues by devouring history and books on understanding systemic racism; a matter those of us with life-long white privilege cannot truly comprehend.

It’s 2020, just past elections that make 2016 look civilized. We face critical local, national and global problems. The words “existential crisis” apply to health, race, technology and climate. There is a local component to each of these that we can individually and collectively address, but if we politicize rather than work together, the time for action becomes tighter and consequences of inaction more severe.

I’m proud of Langley; its response to COVID-19, its direction in infrastructure, its responsible tourism in a challenging time, its consideration of climate impact and its diligent concern for land use planning. I’m proud we have courage to take on difficult issues like systemic racism. In the midst of unique exposure to public scrutiny by virtual meetings, we are learning how to deal with vocal input and balance cultural needs of our residents, emergent national issues and support for businesses critical to our economy.

This message is written to awaken interest in public service among you whose lives will long transcend mine and encourage you to serve your community and help design the future you want.

If you live near Langley, are employed by or frequent our businesses, restaurants and arts providers, consider serving on boards that advise the city council.

If you live inside Langley, consider serving on the council. Either experience will be rewarding, educational and productive toward designing that future.

I’ll not be running for a second term and will leave the Langley City Council for several reasons when my term is up. South Whidbey has a powerful virtual infrastructure, and climate change pressure will attract a new cohort of young professionals now that business has acclimatized to virtual work. Langley will adapt best to these changes when we have members of this demographic among our leaders. Spiritually, I believe, to quote Kahlil Gibran, “those whose souls dwell in the house of tomorrow” deserve the opportunity to design and build that tomorrow.

In May 2021, local candidates file for office. In the meantime, you can sample the Langley governance experience; simply join us the first and third Mondays at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom.

I’m making this announcement now so you can consider a similar decision to the one I made in 2017 and think about public service in your life.

Until Dec. 31, 2021, I’ll “see” you there and be fully dedicated to council work.

The time and energy required for council service is not trivial, and only you can judge compatibility with your personal and work commitments. Count on my assistance. Given a background as a council member, executive coach at Seattle University, business leader in senior positions at Boeing and mentor of youth since my retirement, I’d be fully available to my successor if he or she wants my counsel.

Please seriously consider public service; you may be just the person that Langley needs.

Peter Morton is a member of the Langley City Council.