Felix Menjivar: Control utility rates, keep rein on spending | Friday Harbor Town Council candidate profile
September 23, 2009 · Updated 4:16 PM
Felix Menjivar’s leadership and people skills have been tested in some places that can be pretty contentious: As a sheriff’s deputy, as a union president, and as a neighborhood association president.
“Working as a deputy has given me a very deep understanding of the people here,” he said. “I feel a responsibility to bring that experience to the Town Council and try to listen to people, bring balance to what’s going on. I want the opportunity to help shape the future of this town.”
Menjivar is running for the Town Council in the Nov. 3 election.
His issues: Keep a rein on government spending. Trim expenses where possible. Try to control utility rate increases.
Regarding utility rates, he’s still developing ideas; he’s only been involved in town government, as a planning commissioner, for two months. But right now he likes the option of extending the timeline of costly projects — like raising Trout Lake Dam to create more water storage, and replacing the main transmission line that carries water to the town limits from the water treatment plant on Wold Road.
As an example, he points to the town’s Six-Year Transportation Plan; road projects are often shuffled on the list of priority projects, depending on funding. But he’s cautious about doing that.
“You look at the capital improvements that need to be done to the water system. I know we have to fund them, otherwise our system’s going to collapse. But we need to somehow keep it affordable.”
Menjivar wants to help local government work more efficiently, and, while he didn’t have any ideas at this interview, said he believes his experience and “analytical mind” can contribute to the development of those ideas.
“I’m learning the process and how things work on the council. I’ve been making the (council) meetings to educate myself on how things work,” he said. “I don’t have one thing (but) to try to bring my experience and bring an analytical mind to the issues that I’m going to be presented with.”
Menjivar does feel that regulations can be burdensome to local business.
“I know people sometimes ask, ‘What can we do to regulate this thing or another.’ I think we have enough regulations on the books,” he said. “We need to enforce the ones we have and also look at the existing regulations and how those affecting our community right now and their pocketbooks.
“There are regulations in place that are great for keeping the historical appearance (of downtown), but when you look at the cost of business to try to live up to that code and the benefit to the town in the long term, sometimes it’s detrimental.”
Two examples he cites: Historical preservation standards — they are actually voluntary but come with incentives for compliance — and parking requirements.
“You’re supposed to have ‘X’ amount of parking spots for your building. That sounds great, but if you can’t provide that, then there’s a cost to you,” he said. “I guess, in the future, we could buy a lot and put parking on it, and that’s where that money’s going. But that’s a hardship on a business. We have to find a balance. We need parking spots and that’s always going to be a struggle in town. But heavily taxing business for it is not beneficial.”
‘Keep emotion out of it and make an informed decision’
Menjivar said that as a sheriff’s deputy and as a neighborhood association president, he’s learned the importance of listening to people and keeping a cool head.
Disputes over his neighborhood’s CC&Rs — Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions — have usually been resolved “in a meeting or two,” he said. In fact, CC&Rs can usually be interpreted differently, he said, necessitating dialogue when there’s a dispute. “We have never had to go to court.”
And as a deputy sheriff, “I’ve learned to listen to all sides of the conflict and keep emotion out of it so I can make an informed decision.” He wants to take that skill with him to the Town Council.
“So far, I’ve seen level-headed decisions by the council. I would like the opportunity to add to that.”
Menjivar said he doesn’t expect to spend much money on his campaign. He kicked it off with an appearance in the Fourth of July Parade. He’s been phoning voters and knocking on doors.
Menjivar said he can balance his responsibilities as a sheriff’s deputy — he works the graveyard shift — and council member. The Town Council meets at noon and 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Periodically, there are additional special meetings. In addition, council members represent the town on other board and committees on the island.
With enough notice, he can plan to be off those hours he’s needed for town business, Menjivar said. He said his boss, Sheriff Bill Cumming, is supportive.
“I’m a deputy first and foremost, but I feel a responsibility to do this and I’m willing to commit the time.”
AT A GLANCE
503 Kelsando Circle
— Age: 40.
— Family: Wife, Angela; twin sons, Dylan and Levi, 14; daughter, Samantha, 10.
— Residency: Moved to Friday Harbor in 2004.
— Education: Phillip & Sala Burton High School in San Francisco, 1987; attended Yakima Valley Community College.
— Career: Yakima County deputy sheriff, narcotics detective, 1998-2002; San Juan County sheriff’s deputy, 2002-present.
— Experience: President, San Juan County Sheriffs and Dispatchers Guild; president, Foxhall Firewise Community; chairman, Foxhall Architectural Committee; former president, Foxhall Homeowners Association. Applied for Town Council vacancy to which Noel Monin was appointed in June; was appointed that month to Monin’s Planning Commission position.
— In his spare time: He videotapes his sons’ Tiger football games. “I’ve only missed two games in two years.”