Ballots due April 23, 2013
Lisa Byers is the Director of OPAL (Of People and Land) . She was a land steward for the San Juan County Land Bank prior to taking the position with her position with the Orcas Island affordable housing land trust group which she has held for 17 years.
She is running for the position of county Council member for District 2. Her opponents is Rick Hughes.
Reason for Running: "I have been a manager of organizations that address a range of different needs in the community and I've been successful in that in the non-profit world. I want to see if I can translate that into success in the legislative world. I'm really hopeful we can find a way to preserve the rural character of the islands while we move into and translate into a new economy. I think I've got some good skills to help us do that," she said.
"Land use is a key thing, that is probably the primary role local government plays. Individuals with the best of intention found a business they want to engage in and we don't have proper zoning to allow for those uses. I don't believe in making exceptions. We need to rethink and make sure we are thinking broadly enough to accommodate a variety of uses, that we have places for the uses," she said.
Transportation is the other big role government has regarding business, she says. As for changes high speed internet will make, she isn't sure how to quantify but believes it is something we could market.
County's Biggest Challenge: "It's preserving our island culture, it's rooted in the rural past, a blend of independence and inter-dependence, Byers said. "What is unique about the islands is the influx of individuals who have lived an urban lifestyle, have accumulated sufficient savings that they can live here now, and they are attracted to the quality of life here that was developed from that more rugged individualism and independence."
"You can't get a loan on raw land today. The kinds of creativity that were fostered in the earlier times when you had access to loans or individuals were more inclined to make private deals aren't available now. That has really narrowed, we have to invent different ways of preserving that aspect of community culture, of preserving a place where people help each other because they have the time and inclination to do so," she said. "I don't have any quick answers. I know it is a precious thing that really matters. The tone that the council sets and includes people in decision-making is all going to play a role in that. I hope we can reinvigorate the sense of worthiness in working in government. A revamping of (advisory) committee structure needs to occur so people can see their time is valued."
"I think the staff are under fire a lot. I think they do a yeoman's job, the ones I have met are deeply committed to being of service and to this place. We as a community need to come around to a place of less skepticism about that. The role the council can play is providing more resources for staff to get more training and professional development. If you can foster an environment of continual improvement. Employees can bring forward ideas for change, that if we can implement, are acknowledged. We need to have a regular cycle of that. Every year find five things we can do in each department and then work together to achieve the goals."
CAO: She said, "Near the end (of the CAO process) I took the wetlands section and I applied it to a piece of property that OPAL owns. I found it to be flexible, doable. Yes it maybe took up a little more. A little more acreage is dedicated to buffers. But where the buffers are, it enabled OPAL to have a more creative site design. I had every reason to be worried but by actually testing it found it wasn't scary. That it worked. One thing is to develop a series of case examples that demystify and remove the fear. People are fearful they are being told their whole property is a now wetland and you can't use it. There are a lot of falsehoods."
"I do honestly believe people that people are fearful. The best thing we can do is we have to go right into the fear and figure out what we can do to address the fear. We can't be scared with the loud voices and invectives," she said. "John Evans is just terrified this community is going to lose its rural character and go to hell in a handbasket. I'm with him, I share that. I think we have different approaches about how to address that. At its root making decisions from a place of fear is problemmatic. Let's dig down and find out what our common values, what really matters and see what we can do to advance that in a positive way."
Communication: "It is one of the county's biggest challenges. You have to tell people what you are doing, have to explain it, have to be constantly out there. Have to be honest with people, when you find something isn't working, say why and what you are doing about it. It can't be just the success stories and the happy times. If the council can take more control over communication that would be forthright and clear, they would gain trust and it would make it less possible for those that are spreading falsehoods to gain traction."
"This is a place with incredibly bright and creative people. When you get people together with the a framework that is productive and you ask the critical questions, the problem-solving that can go on is quite extraodinary. Bringing about a slow and steady cultural shift to where county employees feel pride and enthusiasm again for being part of the organization again and the majority of citizens feel like they are getting good service," she said.
Manager's role: When you have a Board of Directors, which is what I consider the county council to be, that has an organizational structure with a strong manager, that is committed to culture of continual improvement and customer service that culture can continue beyond the turnover of council members," she said.