This November, Friday Harbor residents will be asked to vote for the mayor of the county’s only incorporated town. Three candidates filed for the position in mid-May. Learn more about the three men vying for the open position below.
Philip Carvalho, owner of local watering hole Cease and Desist in Friday Harbor, is running.
Carvalho arrived on the island in 2018 and said he has enjoyed it ever since. Being new to the community, he said he has a fresh perspective on the island. Prior to living on the island, Carvalho lived in Southern California and was in Portland, Oregon, for 18 years, where he owned two beer houses and two construction companies.
Being a small business entrepreneur, Carvalho said he likes to think of being a mayor like running a business. You have to figure out how to make the company thrive while also making sure the employees are getting what they need and making sure finances are in check.
“I have a logical, straightforward approach,” Carvalho said.
After the pandemic struck, he said he didn’t think local small businesses got the help that they deserved and received minimal grant money.
Carvalho sees struggling small businesses go hand-in-hand with the housing crisis on the island.
“Right now there’s a lack of a community to be able to support the small businesses in employment,” he said. “We could face an economic collapse due to these small businesses not being supported properly and are seen as a seasonally only style business rather than a year-round business. We need to make sure we have more people on the island supporting these businesses year-round rather than just seasonally.”
One thing Carvalho thinks the town does well, that he hopes to continue to lead, is roadwork projects.
If he is elected mayor, Carvalho said he strives to be approachable. Hearing what people talk about at his establishment gives him good insight into what needs to be done.
“I am already with the community all the time. I’m working at the bar,” Carvalho said. “I’m a new person to any politics and I am coming into it with an open mind, but I will always be open, honest, and blunt.”
Fahad Ghatan, who was elected mayor in 2017, is running for reelection.
Ghatan is originally from Seattle and moved to San Juan Island 30 years ago in hopes of escaping the rat race, he said.
Ghatan has been participating in local government on the island since first being appointed to the planning commission in 1996 and serving until 2004.
He moved away from the island to Canada for some time, but came back in 2013 and was elected to the town council.
Karie Lacher, who was mayor at the time, came to Ghatan and asked him to run for mayor as she was retiring, he said. He ran a successful campaign.
One of Ghatan’s main focus points as mayor has been housing on the island. He has long been an advocate for affordable housing, he said, and even helped to build some of the houses on the island. Before he was mayor, he had a flipping business, which helped him with this endeavor, he said.
Ghatan also works on the Historic Review Commission to make sure no historical merit gets lost in the flipping process. To also help with the affordable housing crisis, he just passed an ordinance that now allows for attached dwelling units on single-family homes to be rented out on a long-term basis.
“I’m very pro-business, fiscally conservative, and socially liberal,” he said.
Along with affordable housing, Ghatan said he also continues to focus on the town helping to support trades training programs, like it did when it contributed $145,000 to the Economic Development Council. He said he hopes this will help younger populations be able to make an affordable living that will allow them to stay on the island.
Something Ghatan thinks he has done well as mayor is how he fiscally handled the pandemic by not having to borrow large sums of government money.
“I was able to sign ordinances that provided rent relief to small businesses that were struggling and allowed utility bills to be put off and in some cases forgiven,” he explained. “We stopped all shut-offs for people who couldn’t pay.”
Although Ghatan said he thinks he has had a lot of success as mayor, there is still a lot more to learn.
“Being mayor has definitely been a learning process, the most successful I have been is when I give opposing voices a way to be heard, even when the council doesn’t see the importance,” he said. “I feel like this is my calling. It feels like it comes natural to me.”
Ray Jackson came to the island unwillingly in 2010 when his job forced him to move, but he ended up falling in love with the area.
“I came here and I knew this is where I was supposed to be. Very much so. And the rest is kinda like history,” Jackson said. “Two years later, I started my own business.”
Now partially in thanks to Jackson, there is no cable on the island as he installs satellite TV.
Before coming to San Juan Island, Jackson served in three branches of the military — the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force.
“The military has made me who I am now, as far as how to deal with people and how to deal with situations,” he said.
Jackson has been married for 33 years and has three kids — two boys and one girl. One of whom works at the local bank.
Coming together is one of his main points stressed in his campaign, with people on the island originating from all over the country or world. When he arrived on the island, Jackson said the town had great teamwork and that cohesiveness made it attractive to a lot of people when it came to finding a place to raise a family, including him. In recent years, he said he has seen this cohesiveness fade.
“It is a unique place because everybody here has immigrated. People’s perspectives are different because of where they come from and what they have gone through,” Jackson explained. “I want to work on getting us together, understanding that there is power in knowledge.”
Jackson said that as a Black man on an island that is predominately white, unity is something he cherishes.
With his job, he finds it gives him a unique perspective. To set up satellite TV, he goes into people’s homes all around the island, giving him a glimpse at their personal lives.
“There’s an amount of trust that goes into my job,” Jackson said.
Because he knows the community so well, he said he is very in touch with it. One thing Jackson thinks the town has done well and hopes to carry on with is maintenance, such as updating the sewer system.
“Duncan [Wilson] was great at writing proposals and grants,” he said. Jackson aims to be just as savvy about getting those grants as Wilson was.
Moving forward, he thinks that 2020 should be a year to reflect on.
“You found out who your friends were. You found out how important your job was. You found out how important teachers are,” Jackson said.
He said he aims to utilize the information the pandemic provided and create change.