Mayor of Friday Harbor candidates Q&A

Two candidates – Farhad Ghatan and Matt Shildneck– are running for Mayor of Friday Harbor.

The position is non-partisan, with a four-year term.

With the Nov. 7 general election on the horizon, the Journal asked the mayoral candidates a few questions.

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Farhad Ghatan

Journal: What inspired you to run for mayor?

FG: I am inspired to run for mayor for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most compelling is my hope that with my leadership, dedication and vision all of the hard work that has been done by the current mayor and council for the past eight years will continue to move forward without disruption.

I believe that we are experiencing a charmed moment in the history of Friday Harbor where many of the needs and concerns of its residents are being addressed and that open communication and cooperation are the new norm. The new mayor will have the responsibility of giving a voice to all of the residents of our town regardless of social or financial status. My many years of working with and for local community organizations gives me a unique perspective and abilities to bridge and solve the many issues that exist today and that will come up in the next four years.

A critical job ahead as mayor will be building partnerships with county, port, state and federal governmental agencies to ensure our continued support both through grants and programs that will provide far reaching benefits to us. We are in the unique position of having one of the lowest overall combined tax rates for our residents, owing in part to our position as the center for commerce for the island. Having now helped steer four annual budgets for the town, and as a successful local contractor, entrepreneur and employer, I have the business skills necessary to help manage the upcoming multi-million dollar annual budgets and expenditures while maintaining affordability and the high levels of service we depend upon.

Lastly, those who know me well will tell you that I am inspired by challenges great and small. As the next Mayor of Friday Harbor I will be a driven advocate for our community and will strive to keep this the best place to live for all of us.

Journal: If you were mayor for one day what would you do and why?

FG: If I was mayor for only a day, I might start in the wee hours of the morning writing proclamations honoring all of the people and organizations that contribute to the success of our community. I believe that by calling attention to those making a difference others will be inspired to join forces with the many good works going on here.

Later in the morning, I would call for a public meeting to include leaders of all of the local governments and organizations to discuss needs and opportunities for our residents. Creating networks within our leadership has and will continue to have many positive outcomes.

Spending time touring all of the town facilities and meeting with and acknowledging all of our dedicated workers would take up most of the late afternoon.

Finally, another public gathering would be called for that evening to gather community input to the challenges and needs facing our residents so that Town staff and council can prioritize their work for the year ahead.

Matt Shildneck

Journal: What inspired you to run for mayor?

MS: As a 38 year resident of SJ Island, I decided to run for mayor because it’s been a dream of mine for many years now. I have seen the town change markedly over the past decades, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

I have always felt there was something special about the town of Friday Harbor, apart from its location in the greater context of San Juan Island and the county. The town is the county flagship and the mayor has an opportunity to set an agenda for making changes that benefit the residents. Through the many changes through the years I raised my two daughters (sixth generation islanders) here, and I remain dedicated to this wonderful town I call home.

Journal: What would you do if you were mayor for the day?

MS: If I were mayor for just one day I would declare a parking holiday and bask in the accolades for a job well done; but this is a silly question. I am not running for mayor for a day. I am not running for the accolades of my fellow Friday Harbor residents. I am running because there are concrete ideas that need to be championed. Ideas like the new parking lot on Spring Street that alleviated so much of the congestion during the summer.

Ideas like the bump-out park in front of the Palace Theater that may have inconvenienced people trying to blow through town, but materially increased the safety of pedestrians and added a needed place to relax and reflect right in the middle of things. Ideas like the Brickworks, a facility that has added so much to the quality of life in the town by giving us a bright, well-constructed home for events of all types through the entire year.

I want to be mayor for four years, not one day. In a day the most capable person can accomplish nothing of substance. But in four years a thoughtful mayor, one steeped in the ethos of the town, can accomplish a great deal towards making the town a better place for the residents.

A better place for the residents, while still serving the larger community and not losing sight of the importance of tourists in our island economy.

Affordable housing, utilities subsidized by our annual visitors, traffic patterns that make moving around town a joy regardless of the ferry unloading, and more policy to more clearly use public land for the town’s benefit.

Contributed photo                                Matt Shildneck is running for Friday Harbor Mayor.

Contributed photo Matt Shildneck is running for Friday Harbor Mayor.

Contributed photo                                Farhad Ghatan is running for Friday Harbor Mayor.

Contributed photo Farhad Ghatan is running for Friday Harbor Mayor.