Election ballots scheduled to be mailed on Friday, October 18

Published on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 by Steve Guntli

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The November 5 general election will have nearly 120 candidates competing for about 95 available positions in Whatcom County. 

The positions and issues listed below are ones which have a direct impact on Blaine and Birch Bay residents. 

Whatcom County Council, At Large 

Bill Knutzen 

Knutzen, who is finishing his first term as at-large council member, said his priorities can be described in three words: dirt, water and food.

Knutzen wants to more clearly define land ownership rights for citizens of Whatcom County, and act as “a better steward” to protect the quality of water. 

“If we want agriculture in Whatcom County, and most of us don’t have water, it’s going to be a pretty difficult proposition,” he said. 

As for food, Knutzen ties the need to provide for Whatcom residents to the economy, and the need to attract employers to the area.

“There are families out there who can’t feed their kids,” he said. “The economy is limping along and we need a county government that makes relations that are fair and consistent, so we can have businesses settle here.” 

Rud Browne

Browne founded his company, Ryzex, in his apartment in 1989, and grew it into a multi-million dollar business. While this is his first attempt at an elected position, he’s held a number of appointed board positions and currently serves on the Whatcom County Ethics Commission.

His priority as at-large council member would be to create sustainable jobs and maintain the high quality of life in Whatcom County. 

“We need to make economic decisions that play on our strengths, and build a labor market that brings people to the community,” Browne said. 

Whatcom County Council, District 1-A 

Kathy Kershner

Kershner is currently serving as chair of the county council and flood control zone district board of supervisors, and has been appointed to several committees in the community, including the North Sound Mental Health Administration and the Northwest Regional Council. Kershner is running for her second term with county council. 

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working for the citizens of Whatcom County over the past four years,” Kershner wrote in a statement on her website. “Working together, we have made significant progress on many important community projects. But I haven’t accomplished all I’d like to for our community; there is much more work to do.”

Barry Buchanan

Prior to running for council, Buchanan sat on Bellingham City Council for four years, and served on the Whatcom County Council of Governments. He is also chair of the Whatcom County Democratic Party.

While his first priority is the preservation of Lake Whatcom and the general health and safety of the public, Buchanan emphasized the importance of interdepartmental relations.

“Whenever you move into a new jurisdiction, there are always some adjustments for the new staff,” Buchanan said. “I want to make sure we have solid relationships throughout the county.” 

Whatcom County Council, District 2-A

Ken Mann

Mann is running for his second term with Whatcom County Council. Prior to his first term, he sat on the Whatcom County Planning Commission for six years.  

“The most important jobs for county government are keeping the streets safe, the water clean and allowing for a good local economy,” Mann said. 

Mann said he is prepared to deal with the many challenges the county will be facing over the next term, and expressed confidence in Whatcom as it is.

“The county is in really good shape compared to many of our peers,” Mann said. “The county government has done a great job protecting our quality of life. We should be proud of our local government.”

Ben Elenbaas

Elenbaas is the owner of Farmer Ben’s Family Farm in Lynden, an advocate for healthy, locally produced food and a sitting member of the Whatcom County Planning Commission. 

“If elected, my priorities will focus on water and maintaining our ability to use it water whether in agriculture, or industry, for aesthetics, for healthy harvestable salmon populations,” Elenbaas said. “This is vital to living in Whatcom County and having a vibrant economy creating jobs for future generations. Life takes water. It is as essential as the air we breath.”

Whatcom County Council, District 3-A 

Carl Weimer 

Weimer has been on Whatcom County Council since 2006. 

Weimer said the three biggest issues facing the council in this coming term are the location for a new county jail, the issues surrounding the drinking water in Lake Whatcom and the proposed Cherry Point shipping terminal.

“There are certainly other ongoing challenges,” Weimer said. “The county is just starting to eke its way out of the economic downturn of the last few years. We need to prioritize the budget and figure out how to keep money flowing in to the community.”

Michelle Luke

Luke is the current chair of the Whatcom County Planning Commission. She believes that county government should be accessible to average citizens.

“Whatcom County citizens should not have to be experts or need to hire one just to participate in local government,” Luke said. “I believe better communication and public participation make for better government.”

Luke believes that the county has not done enough to create jobs or preserve the jobs currently available.

“Some in Whatcom County are afraid of growth and opportunity and have used state planning tools to create a culture of stagnation,” Luke said. “This stagnation not only prevents new business but chips away at our existing economy.”

Blaine City Council, At Large, Pos.  7

Harry Robinson

Robinson, currently appointed mayor, has been an at-large council member for eight years. His priorities if re-elected are to stimulate economic development in Blaine by working with the new owners of the Semiahmoo Resort, marketing the airport land to commercial ventures, and revitalizing the downtown core area.

“We need all of the arrows in our quiver working, and we need to be focused on doing whatever we can to create new business,” Robinson said.  

John Liebert

Liebert has served on the Blaine City Council for 12 years.

His biggest priority if elected is promoting business in Blaine without overtaxing the citizens. 

“I want to find ways to include the newly remodeled and upgraded Semiahmoo Inn with the rest of our community, and help the chamber of commerce promote our community,” Liebert said. 

He would like to incorporate creative ways to improve relationships between business and the city government, he said. 

“I look forward to sharing my vision for the community with both young and old alike,” he said.

Blaine City Council, Ward 2, Pos. 4 

Charles Hawkins 

Hawkins has served on council for eight years. He describes himself as “a moderate candidate with a history of putting forward reasonable solutions to the problems facing Blaine.”

Hawkins stressed the importance of building a good relationship with new city manager Dave Wilbrecht, and continuing to address the problems afflicting Blaine.

“The increase in border travel, the residential growth in east Blaine, and encouraging business growth are all issues the Blaine City Council has been anticipating and planning for,” Hawkins said.  

Brian Thomasson

Thomasson, a realtor for Keller Williams, is running for a seat in Blaine’s second ward. One of Thomasson’s main objectives is turning Blaine from a place people drive by to a place people stop in.

“The city has done an excellent job creating one-time, family friendly events that bring us all together, but I see a need for us to continue to foster that feeling on a regular basis,” Thomasson said.

Thomasson graduated from Western Washington University in 2008 with a degree in accounting and sociology and a minor in business administration. 

North Whatcom Fire and Rescue commissioner, Position 3

Dean Berkeley

Berkeley is running for Fire Protection District 21 commissioner. Berkeley, a firefighter with 12 years of experience, said his biggest priority if elected would be to restore the number of volunteer firefighters in the county, which has dwindled over the years. 

“People I’ve talked to have lost faith in the current service,” Berkeley said. 

The department used to have a large volunteer firefighter force, but now it finds itself “scrambling for volunteers,” Berkeley said.

Berkeley wishes to provide small stipends for paid-on-call volunteers.

“That way, the county can show its appreciation, and it’s far less expensive than a full-time firefighter,” Berkeley said. 

Roger Hawley 

Hawley, owner of Hawley Farms, has served as commissioner in Fire Protection District 21 for 18 years. He feels confident that the district is in good hands. 

“My priority is to keep things running smoothly,” Hawley said. “We have a wonderful staff and our firefighters are very dedicated.”

Hawley, a fourth-generation Whatcom County resident, would like to see more volunteer firefighters contributing, but acknowledges that it’s not as easy as it used to be to attract volunteers. 

“It’s a nationwide problem,” Hawley said. “It takes so much time to commit to volunteer.”

Northwest Park and Recreation District 2, Commissioner 2 

Joseph Maier

Joseph Maier has worked for government for five years, and served in the U.S. Army for four years. This is his first time running for public office. 

His hope is to attract more tourism by providing recreation options for the town.

“We want to maintain what we have and keep providing recreation to Blaine,” Maier said. “It attracts business and tourism and provides for locals as well.” 

Maier said that the park district’s budget will likely pose the biggest challenge in his first term. 

“Blaine’s a small town. We don’t have the buzz of Bellingham, we don’t get income tax revenue, so the challenge is working with the budget and getting people into Blaine and Birch Bay,” Maier said.  

Sheli Moore

Moore is running for position 2 of the Northwest Park and Recreation District 2. Moore, head coach for the Blaine High School volleyball team, has never run for public office before, but is eager to get started. 

“I’d like to see more trails through Blaine,” she said. “It’d be nice to have some kind of access out to the soccer fields for all the kids on bikes.”

“I’d like to see more opportunities for youth so they’re not relying so much on their parents.” 

Northwest Park and Recreation District 2, Commissioner 4 

Katy Monfort 

Monfort has been commissioner for the district since 2009.

Monfort is currently trying to pass a levy, which will see 10 cents of every $1,000 of tax revenue go to funding the department. While the levy is a major concern for the department, Monfort has other goals in mind as well.

“I have a huge interest in pursuing a trail for safe bike riding and walking between Birch Bay and Blaine,” she said. “We haven’t gotten kids as involved as we’d like to either but we do want to see more youth involvement.”

James L. Rankin

Rankin finds himself in the unusual position of running for office by mistake.

“I was told by a neighbor that there was an advisory position available and was urged to take it,” Rankin said. A miscommunication at the auditor’s office found Rankin running for public office. 

Rankin, who works as a volunteer with the Bellingham Parks and Recreation department, says he will accept the position if elected but will not be campaigning vigorously for it. 

“I have no reason to believe that things are not being run perfectly well at this time,” Rankin said.

Relevant Propositions and Initiatives

Proposition 2013-1: Northwest Park and Recreation District No. 2 is a regular property tax levy for a four-year period (2014-17) of $0.10 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to fund staffing, operations, maintenance and capital improvements to improve recreation and leisure time activities and opportunities for people of all ages in the greater Blaine-Birch Bay area. 

Initiative Measure 522: This measure would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale. 

Initiative Measure No. 517: This measure would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature gatherers and petition signers, require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures. 

Candidates for Port of Bellingham will be included in the October 24 edition of The Northern Light.