Contestants vie for unofficial mayor title

Candidate Ken Zaglin washes a car in exchange for votes in a campaign fundraiser last Saturday. Zaglin is running for unofficial mayor on the Vashon Schools Foundation ticket. - Susan Riemer/Staff Photo
Candidate Ken Zaglin washes a car in exchange for votes in a campaign fundraiser last Saturday. Zaglin is running for unofficial mayor on the Vashon Schools Foundation ticket.
— image credit: Susan Riemer/Staff Photo

Several islanders are vying for the position of Vashon’ unofficial mayor and are raising funds for local nonprofit organizations as part of this annual election.

This particular campaigning-for-a-cause began in 2001, when the chamber of commerce and the Eagles club resurrected the unofficial mayor tradition as part of the Strawberry Festival. Six contestants participated, competing for votes that cost a dollar a piece, with the proceeds going to their designated charity. Among the contestants that year were Sharon Nelson, who launched her political career running on the Preserve Our Islands ticket, but she and her other competitors lost to Olde John Croan, who took the title after running to support the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Since then, islanders have been encouraged to cast their $1 votes early and often and have  raised thousands of dollars to support a variety of organizations that serve Vashon — its people and its animals.

“It is a great way for nonprofits to engage with the community and get people aware of them,” said Jim Marsh, the executive director of the chamber of commerce, the sponsor of the contest. “It is an interesting way to raise awareness and raise funds.”

In previous years, most contestants relied on money deposited in donation cans around town, and raised — in total — anywhere from just $1,000 in 2007 to more than $9,000 in 2012.  That was the year that contestant Hilary Emmer “knocked it out of the park,” Marsh said, by raising more than $8,000 for needed dental care and medical services. More typical amounts raised in recent years range from $3,000 to $5,000, with 85 percent of the total for each candidate going to the designated nonprofit and 15 percent to the chamber.

“We spend more than we get back,” said Marsh. “But it’s worth it.”

This year four candidates — or teams of candidates — have tossed their hats in the ring for the position that has no power, but unlimited prestige.

For the first time this year, some of the candidates are hosting fundraising events as part of their campaigns. A car wash for the Vashon Schools Foundation, a fundraiser for candidate Ken Zaglin, was a busy place on Saturday, and a gala at Snapdragon that evening gave a big boost to Adam Cone, Megan Hastings and their dog Lucky, who are running in support of Vashon Island Pet Protectors.

Marsh noted he is pleased to see candidates so active in their campaigns this year.

“They are excited about it and bringing their creativity to it, which is awesome,” he said.

Candidates are allowed to collect money up until 6 p.m. Saturday, July 19. The winner of the title will be announced at 10 p.m. Saturday night at the Strawberry Festival beer garden. After that, the mayoral duties are up to the whoever fills the role. In recent years, the unofficial mayor has issued occasional proclamations and attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies at new facilities, such as the library and the new high school, but the new winner or winning team is free to choose a new path.

“It can be anything they want it to be,” Marsh said.

Adam Cone, Megan Hastings and Lucky
Vashon Island Pet Protectors

Adam Cone and Megan Hastings are known to many islanders as the owners of Snapdragon, but they decided to enter Vashon’s unofficial political arena to benefit Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP).

“I think they do a wonderful job,” Hastings said of the organization, now celebrating its 30th year.

She and Cone have six rescue animals, she said, including their dog Lucky, who shares the ticket with them, Lucky was born at a puppy mill without eyes and is also deaf.

Cone noted he is glad to share his space on earth with animals and believes it is imperative to be good stewards.

“Taking care of our fellow creatures is important,” he added.

In addition to hosting their big party last weekend, Cone said they hope to have another smaller event before the festival and may do more in the future at the restaurant for the benefit of animals.

Leslie Frye, VIPP’s secretary, said the organization’s board members are pleased the trio is running.

“Adam and Megan have always been wonderful supporters,” she said. “We are so grateful for their support of VIPP.”

The agency spends the majority of its funds on vet care for cats and dogs, including support for spay and neuter specials and a microchipping program, Frye said. The agency is often called to board dogs, an additional expense, and at the cat house — where up to 50 cats have lived at one time —  food, liter and a variety of supplies are always needed. Fellow board member Elaine Summers said that some of the money from the mayoral campaign will go to cover the medical expenses for long-term residents in the cat shelter.

“They often need a little more medical and dental attention to keep them happy, healthy and comfortable,” she said.

Caleb Johns
Vashon Community Care

Caleb Johns, a familiar face to many on Vashon, is a staff member at May Kitchen & Bar and the manager of the Farmers Market. He is hoping to use some of his visibility for a good cause and is running in support of Vashon Community Care.

With the birth of his second daughter and the death of his father, Geoff Johns, last year, he said he is contem-plating the foundations of this community, where he wishes to live and raise his daughters. While he appreciates

the abundance of opportunities for island youth, he sees less support for island elders.

“Vashon Community Care is filling a bit of that hole,” he said. “The island has an aging demographic, and we need that help.”

Nineteen years ago VCC made a promise that no one would be turned away for lack of funds. It has kept that

romise and is working to develop the financial means to adhere to that promise well into the future.

Competitive by nature, Johns said his goal is to raise more than $2,100 — the largest amount any single contestant raised last year. That money will go to the Vashon Community Care Foundation as it works to address the annual budget shortfall at the agency and create a sustaining fund for the future, said Truman O’Brien, the head of the foundation, who noted he is very pleased to have Johns on board.

“I am excited to have a young person who is so interested helping the seniors of our community,” he said.

Dorothy Johnson
Sunrise Ridge

Dorothy Johnson, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday, could be considered one of the mothers of health care on Vashon. In the 1960s, she and her friend Opal Montague established the first clinic on Vashon, and Johnson is credited with convincing the government to turn over the Sunrise Ridge site to the island in 1976.

Now, Johnson is running for unofficial mayor to support Sunrise Ridge, which is facing financial challenges.

“This is my last act to help them out,” she said.

The 17-acre site houses a variety of nonprofits, including the food bank, the Franciscan medical clinic and Granny’s Attic, which will likely move to a new location in town this winter.

The only income the property gets is through rent and donations, but the Sunrise Ridge board has always intentionally kept rents low.

“You don’t want to put social service organizations out of business,” Johnson said.

Greg Martin, the president of Sunrise Ridge, said the board has earmarked the funds from the campaign to improve the helicopter pad and access to it.

Martin noted he is pleased to have Johnson run, noting her history in health care on the island.

“If you asked Opal, she would say that Dorothy carried the load,” he said.

Ken Zaglin
Vashon Schools Foundation

Ken Zaglin, the owner of John L. Scott Real Estate on Vashon for the last 19 years, is a longtime supporter of the island’s schools and is running to benefit the Vashon Schools Foundation.

“I am really an ardent supporter of public education,” he said. “The notion of public education is so fundamental.”

When the foundation was created in the face of a fiscal emergency at the district, islanders rose to the challenge, but when it became clear that financial support for the schools was needed on an ongoing basis, some of that energy fell off, Zaglin said.

“They could use a boost,” he added.

Working in the real estate for so long, he said he has seen how important good schools are, as potential homeowners with children typically ask first how the schools are, and having such a strong school district is part of what makes Vashon a healthy community.

Zaglin added he decided on the idea of a car wash — noting that islanders often have dirty cars — and that he recruited help from the high school’s girls’ basketball team as well as some of his staff members.

“I am hoping that will have a lot more effect than standing on the street corner with a can,” he said before the event.

“I am overjoyed to have Ken’s support,” said Donna Nespor, the administrative coordinator of the foundation. “He is well known on the island, and he is always willing to donate his to time to help kids.”

The foundation raised $235,000 this spring, short of its $500,000 goal, and is continuing to raise money to help fund school district priorities for the next school year. The funds Zaglin raises will help in that way.

Zaglin noted that one of his competitors is a blind and deaf dog.

“Put me down as the other dog in the race,” he said.

Earlier indications were that Vashon High School Principal Danny Rock was also going to run, sponsored by the Vashon Eagles, but in support of the Bounty Club, which supports the high school’s football team. Just last week, however, football coach Kelvin Goliday said that the club is in transition and Rock will not  run this year.

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