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Three compete in town council race | Elections
(Correction: town council members do not receive town-paid healthcare benefits, as was reported incorrectly in the original version of this article).
San Juan County’s Aug. 6 primary election will have only one contest, for Friday Harbor Town Council position No. 4, on the ballot.
The top two primary vote-getters will advance to the November general election.
The county Elections office has mailed ballots to the 1,360 Friday Harbor registered voters for the August 6 primary election. If past off-year primary election turnouts are any guide, less than half of those ballots, which must be postmarked or deposited in the voting box in front of the courthouse by Aug. 6, by 8 p.m., will be returned to be counted.
Each of the five town council members is elected for a four-year term. Each is paid $400 per month and $50 per council meeting.
The one primary contest features two first-time candidates, electrician Matt Shildneck and pianist Farhad Ghatan, taking on first-term incumbent Felix Menjivar, a San Juan County Deputy Sheriff. Town Councilwoman Anna Maria de Freitas is unopposed for re-election. The other three council positions will be up for election in 2015.
Shildneck has lived on San Juan Island for thirty years, the last 15 in Friday Harbor, since moving here from New Mexico in the early 1980s at the urging of a childhood friend. He was married to Christy Carlson for 17 years; they have two adult daughters, one who live and works on the island and one who is attending college in Bellingham.
Shildneck is licensed in Washington as a master electrician and worked for many years for Friday Harbor Electric before opening his own electrical installation business, It’s Electric, Inc. He’s served on the Historic Preservation Review Board for five years and on the town Planning Commission for three, both of which sparked an interest in filing for election to the town council.
Shildneck believes that the relationship between the town and county governments needs to be studied.
“I want the town and the island to become a more unified community,” he says, referring especially to the town’s ownership of the Sutton Road transfer station and the town’s contract with the sheriff’s office for law enforcement services.
Because of its small size and position as the entry point for most people and freight, Shildneck believes the town’s tax base results in the town being shortchanged. “It seems like the town receives “a very small amount of tax money for the impact Friday Harbor has on the island,” he said, “and pays too much to the county for services that are provided by county agencies like the Sheriff.”
He cites the Brickworks project and the fire department merger as beneficial developments for both town and county, and thinks the relationship between the Port of Friday Harbor and the town is mutually beneficial.
“But we can’t get locked into a period of time in the relationship between the town and the rest of the island, and we must work at keeping the character of Friday Harbor as we move forward,” he said.
Farhad Ghatan still lives in a house on Harrison Street that he moved into when he put down roots in Friday Harbor in 1991. He’s from Seattle, where he attended Wilson High School. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in economics.
A member of the Friday Harbor Planning Commission from ‘97—‘03, Ghatan was chairman of the commission for five years before resigning to get married in 2003. Ghatan is a past trustee of the San Juan Community Theatre, a founding member of the Arts Council, a member of the county Housing Advisory Board, a past president of the chamber of commerce and current president of the San Juan Nature Institute. He’s also a member of Soroptimists.
His two main concerns will be maintaining the town’s budget and financial situation and advancing economic growth, especially related to jobs and housing.
“I want to build on the excellent management that King Fitch and Wendy Picinich provided the town,” he said. “During my 22 years as a resident of the town, I have been constantly reminded of the fine balance we have between the needs of our locals and the challenges of being the hub to the rest of the island.”
“We serve the majority of the island in many ways but have only our limited tax base to keep up these heavy demands,” he continued. “As Council member, I will work towards keeping Friday Harbor utilities and taxes affordable while continuing with providing the fine services our Town is known for.”
Ghatan wants to create more town parking and to “find a way to divert the heavy truck traffic from Warbass Way and Harrison Street.”
An accomplished pianist, Ghatan says he plans to continue his Friday morning piano playing at the Village at the Harbour if elected.
When compared to his primary opponents, incumbent Felix Menjivar is a newcomer. He moved to Friday Harbor in 2002 to fill a deputy position with the Sheriff’s Department. He was a deputy in Yakima County for four years prior to relocating to the island. He’s married and has two sons and a daughter
A graduate of Burton High School in San Francisco, Menjivar attended Yakima Valley Community College, where he studied criminal justice.
“We immediately fell in love with the natural beauty, peace and charm of this independent little town,” he said before winning election to the Town Council in 2009.
“I’ve come to realize that Friday Harbor is home to a diverse, independent, passionate group of individuals,” he said in campaign materials. “My goal is to represent each and every member of this community, to listen to fellow residents, investigate their concerns and bring an analytical and common sense approach to issues as they arise.”
All three candidates have run low-key primary campaigns, but each promises to ramp up their campaign visibility and activity if they finish first or second in the primary.