Friday Harbor Town Council votes 3-2 against Low's appointment, for Hushebeck's appointment to vacancy; Lacher casts two tie-breaking votes

From left, town Systems Administrator Steve Dubail takes councilman-designee  Steve Hushebeck
From left, town Systems Administrator Steve Dubail takes councilman-designee Steve Hushebeck's photo for the town Web site, Thursday. The Town Council voted 3-2 to appoint Hushebeck to the vacancy created when Carrie Lacher was elected mayor. Lacher cast the deciding vote for Hushebeck.
— image credit: Richard Walker

In Friday Harbor, the mayor votes only to break a tie.

During the Town Council's noon meeting, new Mayor Carrie Lacher got to fulfill that responsibility twice — to deny her former position on the council to her opponent in the November election; and two, to appoint a planning commissioner to the post.

Planning Commissioner Stephen J. Hushebeck was appointed to the Town Council 3-2 today; he will be sworn in at 5:35 p.m. and will take office immediately. He will serve the two years left in the term vacated by Lacher when she was elected mayor.

After a closed-session meeting to evaluate the candidates' qualifications for the position, Councilman Noel Monin nominated Bob Low appointment to the council, seconded by Councilman Felix Menjivar. The vote to appoint Low was 2-2, with Council members Carrie Brooks and Anna Maria de Freitas opposed.

Lacher cast the deciding vote against Low.

The vote was reversed for Hushebeck, who was nominated by de Freitas. His nomination was seconded by Brooks. Monin and Menjivar voted against Hushebeck's appointment. The 2-2 tie vote was broken, in Hushebeck's favor, by Lacher.

Monin — a District 3 fire captain and maintenance supervisor — said Low has layers of experience that are hard to match. Low, a former water treatment plant lead worker and town fire chief, is county fire marshal and an EMT, and served four years as an elected hospital district commissioner. Low ran for mayor in November and received 305 votes to Lacher's 429.

"Bob has proven over the years his commitment to the community," Monin said. "He's also shown interest in the council and has been attending a lot of meetings."

In placing her nomination, de Freitas cited Hushebeck's community involvement — as a town planning commissioner, town-county Joint Policy Planning Committee member, and Leadership San Juan Islands student — as well as his business background. She said his background will be helpful as the council deliberates tough fiscal decisions.

Lacher agreed in casting the deciding vote to appoint Hushebeck.

Low was at the meeting earlier and, with the four other candidates, made a statement before the council. He was not present when the council voted. Hushebeck was present for the vote.

After the meeting, Monin congratulated Lacher on a "good job" in her first session as mayor, and congratulated Hushebeck on his appointment. Monin said he had served with Hushebeck on the planning commission and new him as eloquent and skillful.

Hushebeck is a retired oil industry executive — marketing, operations and sales — and is a trustee for the Children’s Institute for Learning Differences (C.H.I.L.D.) on Mercer Island, which focuses on children with autism.

The Kansas City, Mo. native earned a finance and marketing degree in 1978 from California State University at Northridge, and after graduation joined Mobil Oil as an account manager in Seattle. He retired in 2007 as managing director of ConocoPhillips Corp. in Seattle. He and his wife, Jean, live in a restored heritage home on Geneste Street that they bought in 2003. They have two adult children and one grandchild.

In a profile he provided, Hushebeck said he is "excited about supporting economic development within the Town of Friday Harbor and San Juan County while maintaining and enhancing the unique quality and character of this community. He believes there is a lot of opportunity here including the proposed Farmers Market in Friday Harbor, although he feels the interests of all affected parties, including farmers, artists and craftsmen and local property owners need to be considered to make it success."

Besides Hushebeck and Low, the other candidates for appointment were Linda Browne, who served on the Friday Harbor Port Commission from February 1976 to December 1993; Terry Sanders, a town firefighter and captain for Brandywine Charters; and Matt Shildneck, an electrician with Friday Harbor Electric and member of the town Historic Preservation Review Board.

Town Council members receive $85 a meeting, with a maximum of four meetings per month. They help approve budgets, set policy, and determine town government's direction on public services and quality of life issues.

Because of a perennial dearth of candidates, those appointed to council positions often find they have jobs for a while.

Wally Gillette, who lost a Town Council race to Howard Rosenfeld by one vote in November 2001, was appointed four months later to a council position vacated by Vonda Sheiman, who resigned. Gillette ran unopposed for a full term in November 2003.

Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, appointed to the council in January 2007 to fill a vacancy caused by Rosenfeld's election to the County Council, ran unopposed in the next election to decide who would serve the rest of the term. But he resigned in June 2008 to take a job with the City of Renton.

De Freitas was appointed to succeed Balcomb-Bartok and was elected in November to a full term. She ran unopposed.

Ditto for Monin, who was appointed in June to the council position vacated by Christopher Wolf, who resigned to teach in Qatar. Monin was unopposed in the November election to decide who would serve the rest of the term, which expires Dec. 31, 2011.

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