Editorial staff’s 2017 general election endorsements

The editorial staff of The Journal of the San Juan Islands and Islands’ Sounder – Colleen Smith Armstrong, Cali Bagby, Hayley Day, and Heather Spaulding – held a meeting to discuss the candidates running for the November 2017 elections. Read our endorsements below.

School board

In the race for San Juan Island School District 149 School Board Director 1, we are endorsing Ruth McKenna, who is running against Sarah Werling-Sandwith. We appreciate Werling-Sandwith’s enthusiasm for our schools and her background as a parent, educator and family advocate, but McKenna’s 43 years of experience at both the local and state levels of education will provide the district needed knowledge during this uncertain period of public education funding. Last summer, the state’s two-year budget significantly changed how public schools will receive money, but details have yet to be finalized. We applaud McKenna’s formulated plans to improve island scholastics as well as her understanding of education best practices. In a time of budget and morale issues, McKenna will make the tough, research-based decisions the district needs. We hope that she will value effective communication with the community.

In the race for San Juan Island School District 149 School Board Director 2, we are endorsing Barbara Bevens, who is running against TJ Heller. Bevens has a wealth of district knowledge, from volunteering as the district’s truancy monitor to working as the homeschool liaison/alternative learning coordinator with Griffin Bay Schools. Bevens has a long history of community involvement and a realistic outlook on district issues. Her experience managing a multi-million-dollar budget, while working in retail, will be welcomed insight as terms expire for other budget experts on the board.

Hospital board

In the race for the San Juan County Public Hospital District 1, Commissioner 2, we are endorsing John Manning, who is running against Anna Lisa Lindstrum. With 20 years as the director for the San Juan County Health and Community Services, he has a thorough understanding of our community’s needs. His work on an over $4 million budget with the county will provide needed oversight to the island’s Emergency Medical Services budget, which the commission oversees.

This endorsement comes with a twist, as Peg LeBlanc has dropped out of the race for the board’s commissioner 4 positions. She was the sole candidate for that spot and ballots were printed prior to her announcement, leaving her name to appear as a viable option to voters. We think Lindstrum is a great candidate as a write-in for position 4. We support Lindstrum’s platform — which focuses on affordable health care, family planning and island EMS sustainability — and ask voters to add her name as a write-in.

However, if LeBlanc is elected, the hospital district commissioners can appoint a replacement through public interviews, and we urge the commissioners to put Lindstrum at the top of their list.

Town of Friday Harbor Mayor

In the race for the Mayor of the Town of Friday Harbor, we are endorsing Farhad Ghatan, who is running against Matt W. Shildneck. Ghatan has served on the Town of Friday Harbor Council since 2013. He is passionate about community service and is dedicated to improving the town. Shildneck has a wealth of experience and community involvement from the Friday Harbor Planning Commission to the Kiwanis Club. Both candidates would improve our community, but Ghatan has a leg up when it comes to experience.

Port of Friday Harbor

In the race for the Port of Friday Harbor Commissioner 2, we are endorsing Barbara E. Marrett, who is running against Keith Carver. Marrett has served as post commissioner since 2005.

Carver said he opted to be a candidate when former Port Maintenance Director Joe Wheeler’s position was eliminated last winter due to budget cuts. The issue sparked about two months of debate at port meetings, where members of the public questioned that decision, which then executive director Ted Fitzgerald made.

After Fitzgerald resigned, he explained that the port needed to save money, but the decision to eliminate Wheeler was also based on his threats to a worker at the Spring Street Landing project, which Wheeler denied.

Carver’s campaign Facebook page states he watched the commission “struggling with difficult decisions, and rather than just tell the truth, they … offered increasingly conflicting explanations for the decisions they were making.”

We agree that commissioners should have explained why they did not discuss employee issues better. The decision to remove Wheeler was correct for fiscal responsibility and protected the port from liability if an altercation had occurred. We urge commissioners to continue to strengthen their transparency and applaud them in their open interviews and community meetings to replace Fitzgerald.

We believe this race should not be decided on one issue, but each candidate’s experience and insight as a whole.

Marrett’s local volunteerism and work at the San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau make her a well-rounded, knowledgeable source of island information. Her rationalization, coupled with receptiveness, will provide the port innovative, yet methodical projects, like the potential purchase of the Jensen Boat Yard and Marina.

The elected commissioner from this race will help appoint the commission’s third open seat, as the owner of that shipyard, Mike Ahrenius, resigned in September before sale discussions began. We urge the commissioners to appoint a member who has a fresh perspective, values transparency and has the same civic-mindedness of Marrett.