Several islanders have filed with King County Elections to retain their elected posts or run for a seat on public boards, including at the park, fire and school districts.
Most candidates are running unopposed. An exception is that islander Bob Hennessey, a former Vashon Island School District board member, is seeking to return to the board and will go head to head for the seat belonging to incumbent Dan Chasen, who is running for re-election.
No candidate for commissioner of a proposed Vashon hospital district will appear on the ballot in August. Individuals up for a vote for that position will run in the November general election along with the measure to create the hospital district, according to Tim Johnson, a member of the Vashon-Maury Island Health Collaborative.
The deadline to file was last Friday, May 17. Election day is Nov. 5. A primary on Aug. 6 is only for races with three or more candidates running; there are no island races with that many people vying for a seat.
Vashon Island School District
Islander Bob Hennessey was a school board member for 12 years, beginning his first term in 2005. He did not seek re-election in 2017, telling The Beachcomber at the time that it had become difficult to remain passionate and open-minded after serving for so long.
But in a phone conversation Monday, he said he is ready to return.
“I guess I still got some gas in my tank,” he said. “I enjoyed being on the school board. I think it’s important work, and I discovered it’s something I wanted to continue doing.”
Hennessey said that one of his top reasons for seeking re-election to the school board is to ensure that the quality of the education students receive in all three schools remains first-rate. He added that striking a balance between maintaining excellence in the schools and doing it sustainably is one of his primary goals. Hennessey said he is concerned about the future of the community, as more islanders are priced out and forced to leave due to the rising cost of living.
“I think the character and affordability of the island is one of the biggest issues we face, and we need to thread the needle to make good investments for our kids and our education system while at the same time not taxing people off the island,” he said.
His challenger for Position 1, Dan Chasan, is also familiar to many on Vashon, having served on the board for nearly as many years as Hennessey. Both candidates spoke of their admiration for the other, having worked together for many years to resolve issues that defined their time as commissioners. But Chasen said he was not ready to walk away from the position.
“I still care about the schools, the community, [and] the kids. I was urged by people I respect to do it again,” he said.
Chasen noted that he anticipates funding from the state, as a result of the Legislature’s McCleary funding plan, will continue to be one of the greatest challenges facing the district going forward. He said board members are now left with an ever-tightening budget, one that poses significant, potential long-term implications for each of the three schools, though he added that the difficult circumstances are far from the worst the district has ever seen.
Toby Holmes, who was elected to the school board in 2015, is running again for Position 5.
On the McCleary funding plan, he agreed with Chasen, saying that all schools in the state are struggling with the new funding model as well as how to cover everything from education to general expenses to faculty benefits.
“We’ve had to really examine every position in every school and seek to find ways that we can be more efficient without sacrificing employees or programs. That’s a tough thing,” he said, praising his colleagues for their willingness to find workable solutions and for negotiating teacher pay raises last year.
But in order to make ends meet, he noted, the district has had to reduce maintenance expenditures as well as the purchase of supplies, adding that adequate funding will mean the difference between offering a strong program and having to make deep cuts.
Board member Zabette Macomber, who is seeking re-election for Position 3, echoed his remarks. In addition to more funding, including for special education, she said she would also like for the board to continue working on the promotion of racial equity in the schools and for more education on climate change.
Macomber added that she is inspired by those willing to sit at the table and propose ideas in the interest of common goals. She said that a recent contract negotiation between the administration and the Service Employees International Union Local 925 had gone well, as were current discussions with the Vashon Education Association.
“I think the district is doing a great job overall,” she said. “It’s fun work, it’s interesting work, and the people are great to work with. If it was miserable, I would gladly let someone else do it.”
Vashon Park District
Karen Gardner is running again as a commissioner for Position 1 at the Vashon Park District, but she said that was not her original plan. The failure of last month’s maintenance and operations levy prompted her to rethink leaving the board.
“The park district is going to be going through some hard times, and so I think they need me,” she said.
Gardner said the current board succeeded in accomplishing a number of goals, including the creation of a strategic plan to complete deferred maintenance and the improvement of the district’s financial health. She said commissioners have begun the task of addressing how better to communicate the value of the park district to the community ahead of the November general election when islanders will again vote on the district’s levy rate.
“The consensus and opinion of all board members [is] that the levy failed because people are tired of their taxes [being raised],” she said. “And we understand that.”
During recent meetings, the board has expressed interest in renewing the current 41 cent levy, but no formal decision has been made.
“We’re all going to do what we can,” she said.
Speaking fondly of the board, Bob McMahon, who will run again as a commissioner for Position 3, said he would like to find ways to implement the strategic plan in another term. He added that he believes commissioners would find a way to push through the challenges ahead.
Hans Van Dusen, the newest member of the board, was selected last fall to serve out the rest of former commissioner Scott Harvey’s term after his resignation and is seeking re-election to his seat in Position 5. He was unavailable for comment before press time.
Vashon Island Fire & Rescue
Camille Staczek is running again for a six-year term as a commissioner for Position 2 at the fire district. She said she has learned much in her tenure and wants to continue serving to the best of her ability.
“I want to give back to the island because it has been good to me,” Staczek said.
She commended Chief Charlie Krimmert for his budgeting prowess, as well as the board for working to fund reserve accounts for future needs. She added that the district is in the midst of creating a replacement schedule for ailing equipment. But the formation of a hospital district, said Staczek, gave her pause.
“It’s going to come down to another tax, and I don’t know how the island is going to take that,” she said.
Forming a hospital district could curb the revenue of so-called “junior” taxing districts on the island, such as the park and cemetery districts. Combined, local taxing districts can only levy as much as $5.90 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If that limit is exceeded, “prorationing” occurs, reducing the tax revenue of the junior taxing districts in a particular order, beginning with parks.
Staczek said fire commissioners are sensitive to the situation.
“I think it’s going to be a really interesting balancing act, how [hospital district commissioners] are going to do it,” she said.
For her part, Staczek said she is confident the fire district will continue providing the best service possible for islanders.
“I would like to use the experience I have and build on that so that we can make the district better, and better serve our community because they deserve it,” she said. “They supported us, and I have an obligation to see that their needs are met.”
In next week’s Beachcomber, there will be information on the candidates running for Water District 19 as well as the airport, sewer and cemetery districts.