Editor’s Note: This is the second story in a two-part series looking at who has filed for the island’s public boards and some of the goals they hope to achieve. Candidates for park, school and fire boards were included in an article last week.
Several islanders have filed with King County Elections to retain their elected posts or run for a seat on public boards, including at the airport, sewer and cemetery districts, as well as Water District 19.
Most island races are uncontested, but King County Council Chair Joe McDermott is seeking re-election and will appear on the ballot during a primary on Aug. 6 with Michael Robert Neher and perennial candidate Michael George Nelson, otherwise known as Goodspaceguy.
The deadline to file was Friday, May 17. Election day is Nov. 5. The primary is only for races with three or more candidates running; there are no island races with that many people vying for a seat.
Bob Therkelsen, an original founder of the Vashon Air Service — the organization of 44 pilots who own a number of hangars at the airstrip located off of Cove Road — is running for Commissioner Position 3 of the public facility. Reminiscing about his past and the origins of how the district first came together, Therkelsen said the airport has seen a lot of change in recent years compared to its modest beginnings when he first came onto the scene in the late 1950s.
“The field that is now Vashon Airport was sitting there vacant,” he said, adding that the formation of the district as a result of new state law at the time was instrumental in creating what is now the island air service. “Five of us who had airplanes that we had to move [somewhere] went on [to become] commissioners.”
Upgrading the airfield was made possible by a $3 million, 20-year grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2009. Work was done to scale back trees that posed a hazard to planes on their approach to land on the grassy runway, and power lines were buried to clear the way for pilots. But Therkelsen noted that the trees have grown back and will once again need to be topped.
Kaye Pierson, who is running for Commissioner Position 1, credits Therkelsen for his decades of service to the district. It is her hope, she added, that through the work of the board, the district’s facilities will be available to the next generation of pilots flying to the island.
“I just want to make sure the airport continues on after we’re gone,” she said.
Currently, there is no one running for Commissioner Position 2, but Pierson said that Will Gerrior, a current commissioner, is expected to file after the primary when the county allows those interested in running to file for unfilled positions.
Water District 19
Michael Weller is running for Commissioner Position 2 of Water District 19. He was appointed last October to fill out the remainder of the term of former commissioner Jenny Bell, who had become ineligible to serve after she moved out of the district.
Weller, a project manager at Point32, a Seattle-based real estate company specializing in helping nonprofits, said that he did not think twice about filing after getting to know the other commissioners and staff during his time at the district. He added that working as a commissioner has served him well in his day job — he has a greater appreciation for what it frequently takes to move projects ahead, such as how complicated it can be to make changes to existing agreements or to provide water shares in accordance with regulation and availability.
“I’ve certainly learned all of the different factors that go into providing water for Water District 19,” he said. “I’ve come to appreciate [how important] reliable water is to the island and how much effort goes into providing it.”
New at the district is the implementation of a revised rate structure for customers, effective in February, that is intended to bring in more revenue annually to the district.
“That’s allowing us to look forward to planning some of those capital improvements, [water] main replacements, other things like that,” he said.
The district is expected to complete a flurry of capital projects totaling $8 million over the next 10 years.
Weller said that the district is hands-on when it comes to serving its customer base of nearly 1,500 accounts, including Vashon’s downtown area and the public schools. He added that commissioners are looking for ways to better interface with agencies such as the permitting division of King County’s Department of Local Services.
“I think that’s been something we’re learning more about and have some work to do to make that as seamless as possible,” he said.
Anthony Puz, a third-generation islander, will seek the position of Commissioner 2 at the cemetery district. His decision to run came down to being asked.
“[That is] usually how I end up doing things. People call me up and ask for help, and so I help however I can,” he said, adding that he is a stay-at-home dad with lots of unscheduled time — freeing him up to serve where needed.
Lisa Devereau, president of the Washington State Funeral Directors Association, is serving her third term as Cemetery District commissioner. She said hard work is being invested to clean up brush and fallen trees from the Maury Island Cemetery in Docton. With Memorial Day last Monday, she added that Vashon Cub Scout Pack 275 had done a great job laying out American flags at the island’s main cemetery.
The district, she noted, will soon begin to consider the implications of the new human composting law recently signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, including several disposition alternatives at the island’s cemeteries for those who opt for a green burial and what practices will be offered. The law takes effect in May next year.
Marta Medcalf of the Vashon Sewer District is running for Commissioner Position 2. She could not be reached for comment.