by Leith Templin
As I sat and listened to our San Juan County Council meeting this week and watched how professionally and respectfully Rick Hughes chaired the meeting, I was so appreciative of all that he has brought to the council and has accomplished for San Juan County and most especially the projects that have been accomplished on Orcas.
I was so saddened when he announced that he had resigned from the Opportunity Council, National Association of County’s Rural Broadband, NW Reginal Council, Washington State Association of Counties JEDI and transportation committee as well as the legislative steering committee and the Ferry Advisory and the NACo Transportation Subcommittee.
President-Elect Joe Biden just announced his proposed Transportation Plan and it does not mention any funding for ferries. With Rick’s absents and connections in Washington, D.C., and Olympia especially in these last two committees, I can see the hope of the new hydro-electric ferry fading into the sunset and possibly the hope of a new regular ferry as well.
His guidance through COVID-19 was remarkable and will be sorely missed. We are headed into possibly again more restrictive shutdowns as the number of cases soars across the state. We have lost some of our small business already and I am hoping that the others will be able to hold on. Our budget is tight and we have been so lucky that our county employees rose to the occasion this year to take on additional workloads when jobs were cut in the courts and public works to name a couple. This is not sustainable.
The council and staff have been working hard for at least three years on the Comprehensive Plan update and making sure that we are compliant with the Growth Management Act as mandated. It will be quite a burden on staff and the remaining council person to be able to finish the Comprehensive Plan with not one but two new council members who have not been involved in the process at all. The learning curve will be incredible and then you throw in understanding the funding and budget process for the whole county plus COVID-19 plus our economic downturn. I hope you have your seat belt on because we are in for the ride of our life and our community.
Thank you again Rick for all your dedication to try to do the right thing for our community. I for one will miss your leadership and guidance through the days ahead. I am sure your family will enjoy being able to have an uninterrupted dinner with you now. Take care, my friend.