San Juan Islander endorses current Council members Rick Hughes (District 2 -Orcas/Waldron Islands) and Jamie Stephens (District 3 - Lopez/Shaw Islands in the April 23 Special Election. With the San Juan County Council reduced to three members, it is very important each one represents a broad spectrum of the community and these two men will do that well. Hughes, especially as he is truly an independent.
He's asked organizations such as Trust Islanders not to endorse him because it implies an association with the group where none exists.
Hughes and his wife Marlace own Ray's Pharmacy, an Eastsound business with 15 employees. They are active in the school community, hosting Roller Skating on Friday Nights at the school among other contributions of their time and energy. These are just three examples - business owner, employer and volunteer - of factors which provide him with knowledge of the every-day problems and concerns facing islanders.
His experience running a business subject to economic conditions, his ability to see a need and solve it (Eastsound now has trash receptacles on its streets for the first time), his decision-making skill in evidence at council meetings makes him the best candidate to represent his district.
While the elections are county-wide and each council member must represent the whole county, let's be realistic and admit each of the three council members will in touch the most with the citizens in their districts. With Hughes, Orcas Islanders have a representative with deep ties to their island.
His opponent Lisa Byers' accomplishments as the Director of OPAL are outstanding and have garnered her national recognition. While she has emphasized that the home trust houses 5 percent of the island's population and 15 percent of its children that doesn't translate to an ability to represent all sections of island life. Her skill set is better suited to an advocacy role rather than a legislative one.
Jamie Stephens performance on the county Council has been under-appreciated by some. He does his research, is always prepared and listens to all sides. At times he is the one stopping the council from veering off into areas it doesn't belong. He's traveled to Olympia and Washington, D.C. when necessary, and he's represented the unique needs of Lopez Island well. His professional demeanor when interacting with other government officials - local, state and national - provides an excellent image for our county.
His almost two decades of experience on Lopez Island which includes helping others who want to start their own businesses, serving as a Port Commissioner and as a board member on several Lopez organizations including the Family Resource Center means he has the background necessary to represent a wide range of Lopez's population.
It's good to see someone like Brian McClerren running for council. He has a young family, knows first-hand the difficulty of purchasing a home on Lopez Island and creating and growing a business. However his inexperience in a leadership role means he isn't a good fit at this time to serve as a county Council member. He will make a good candidate in the future but now is not the time.
Voting for Hughes and Stephens will provide San Juan County with the leadership it needs as it makes difficult regarding the county budget, the islands' environmental and the local economy.
In District 1 (San Juan/Stuart Islands) voters have a choice between former Council member Lovel Pratt and current Council member Bob Jarman. Pratt was a dedicated extremely hard-working council member during her term. However she has a tendency to go beyond her duties into areas best left to others. For example, instead of referring a constituent to the correct channels to answer concerns about an alleged land use violation, she investigated it herself.
Current Council member Bob Jarman knows all the islands and has deep roots. However his tendency to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to budget requests and his lack of preparation - he announced he hasn't read the Critical Areas Ordinance - aren't reassuring.
San Juan Islander is not making an endorsement in this race.