Knapp, Orcas East county council rep, won't seek reelection

County council member Gene Knapp says he will not be running for re-election when his term expires in January 2011.

“I’ve been at this long enough and I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working for the county in a number of different positions for many years,” said Knapp, who is the councilman for District #5, Orcas East.

He intends to conclude his career as both councilman and attorney to enjoy working his land, The Knapp Farm.

He said his most memorable accomplishment was being involved as a Freeholder in the creation of the Home Rule Charter approved in November 2005, which gave county voters the right to initiative and referendum and shifted legislative power from three county commissioners elected at-large, to a six-member county council elected by population-based districts.

A year prior, the county council had approved Resolution 60-2004, declaring that a 21-member Board of Freeholders would be elected by San Juan County citizens to draft a charter specifically for the governance of San Juan County.

“The sitting council opposed the charter, so I thought a freeholder should be on the council,” said Knapp, who says he enjoyed his time on the council. “It’s fun solving problems. The people are top of the line people who are fun to work with, and they’re looking out for the good of the county. I’m not sure most of the people in the county know how lucky they are to have these people working for them,” he said.

Knapp considers finances to be the greatest challenge currently facing the county.

“It’s very difficult now,” he said. “That will improve when the economy improves.”

Knapp has served on the Orcas Island Medical Center, Orcas Center and Orcas Island Community Foundation boards, and chaired the Land Bank for 12 years. During his 56-year career as an attorney he served as the San Juan County prosecuting attorney, a grand jury investigator, a Seattle trial lawyer, and a professor of Business Law at the University of Washington. He also served as president of the Washington State Defense Trial Lawyers Association and was voted “Washington State Super Lawyer” by the state’s attorneys for several years.

Knapp said he will be trying to avoid taking on further community responsibilities.

“As of right now I’m going to try not to have any obligations,” he said.

The position of county councilperson for District 5, Orcas East will be up for vote on the August ballot, by members of District 5 only. Orcas East includes the eastern half of Orcas Island, divided by North Beach Road and East Sound.

Long-time Orcas resident Patty Miller says she is considering running for Knapp’s vacated position.

“I started thinking about it in the last five to six months, as I’ve participated and become more involved in the issues,” she said. “I wouldn’t run if Gene chose to run again. So it’s not a matter of not being well represented (by Knapp).”

Miller is currently on the Eastsound Planning Review Committee and Eastsound Water board, president of the Economic Advisory Council, and chair of the Stormwater Utility. In the past, she has served on the San Juan Initiative, Critical Areas Ordinance Committee, and the Cell Phone Task Force.

“I will decide in the next few weeks. At this point I am reaching out to people in my district,” Miller said. “Up until now most of the people I have worked with are at the county, so it seemed appropriate to reach out to the group of people I’d be representing and see if it might be a good fit.”

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