Friday Harbor businessman Marc Forlenza set his sights high in a first-ever run for public office, taking on two-term incumbent and former town council member Howie Rosenfeld in the race for the District 3 position on the San Juan County Council.
On the eve of the election, Forlenza, part-owner of the Technology Center, felt confident about his chances of pulling off the upset. Turns out he did just that, earning 53 percent of 1,255 ballots cast in the District 3 race, 595 to 526, a 73 percent voter turnout, to unseat the veteran office holder.
Forlenza remained philosophical about the outcome.
"Win or lose, it's been quite a learning experience," he said.
With 2.058 registered voters, District 3 encompasses the Town of Friday Harbor, Brown Island and the areas of Turn Point and Pear Point.
While numbers may change with the next tally of ballots are counted, Auditor Milene Henley, manager of local elections, said that she does not expect the outcome of the District 3 council race will change.
County Council members are elected by district, serve four-year terms and receive $35,000 a year plus benefits. The County Council is the legislative authority of the county, approves the annual county budget, is responsible for county property and funds, considers land-use appeals, provides for county infrastructure, roads and buildings, fixes the amount of county taxes according to law, and serves as the county franchising authority.
A supporter of the county Home Rule charter, Forlenza opposed the amendments backed the Charter Review Commission, Propsitions 1-3, which would have reduced the council from six part-time legislators to three full-time council members, and replaced the position of county administrator with a manager whose duties would be determined and directed by a three-person council. A former marketing executive, he touted his experience in conflict resolution and drew the endorsement of the county's labor union, Local 1849, during the campaign.
A newcomer on the local political landscape, Forlenza said his victory would bring a fresh perspective to long-standing issues that would dovetail with a recent turnover at the top of the administrative branch of both the town and the county.
"I believe there is an unprecedented opportunity for the town and the county to begin a new era of mutual trust and harmony," Forlenza said in the Journal's Oct. 10 candidate "Q & A". "The confluence of new town and county administrators and three county seats up for grabs can set the stage to mend fences and help seek long-needed solutions to old problem, like the solid waste station."
Of the many issues raised over the course of the campaign, the deciding factor arguably was the update of the county critical areas ordinance in the District 3 race. The candidates differed markedly over the state of the state-mandated update. Rosenfeld labeled the pending series of changes to the CAO, land-use regulations that protect areas such as wetlands, aquifers and fish and wildlife habitat, as "effective and fair". Forlenza called the set of proposed rules overly stringent, unduly burdensome and quite likely unenforceable.
"I would support simpler, more common sense regulations that actually sought to prevent harm to our environment while not being overly burdensome on our local economy," Forlenza said.
It appears that he will have that chance.