San Juan County Council member Alan Lichter announced on May 26 that he will run for re-election for his Orcas West district. Lichter was elected as a Democrat in 2004 to the three-member Board of County Commissioners that preceded the present Council, defeating the three-term Republican incumbent by more than 1,300 votes.
Lichter noted that unlike the previous election, in which all County voters could vote for all candidates, the Council is now elected on a district-by-district basis. “That doesn’t mean that we represent only the interests of our own district,” he commented. “We have to work together as a Council to do what’s best for all County residents. Having been elected county-wide, and then chaired the Council in its first year, I’m in an excellent position to do that.”
Lichter emphasized his experience as a member of both the old Board and the new County Council. “Being an effective Council member is not just a question of having good intentions. You have to develop relationships with State legislators and State agency heads to get good cooperation from Olympia, and you have to respect and be respected by your fellow Council members and County staff to make things work in the islands.”
Lichter is Chair of the County Veterans’ Advisory Board, and the only veteran on the Council. He’s also Chair of the County Board of Health, and two weeks ago welcomed the members of the State Board of Health to Orcas for the Board’s first ever visit to the island.
He’s proud of his four years’ achievements, including two that made bold headlines. He co-authored the Council’s 2008 climate change resolution that committed San Juan County to an eighteen-point program to help climate stabilization. Two years earlier, he wrote the County ballot language demanding that the Bush administration end the Iraq War. “I got a bland do-nothing response letter from the White House,” he says, “but as concerned United States citizens, we have a moral duty to make our voices heard.”
He’s equally proud of achievements with a purely local impact, like finding funding to help keep the Orcas Farmers’ Market afloat, and accelerating the repair of the lagoon bridge in Moran State Park. As he says: “It takes experience with government to know how to make things happen.”
How does Lichter see the challenges ahead for San Juan County? Long-range planning, finances, and ferries top his list. On the long-range planning front, he wants to shape a vision for what the County will look like in twenty years, and arranged for Nantucket’s Planning Director to conduct workshops here. “They are ahead of us in facing the challenges of growth, good and bad, and we need to learn from their experience,” he says. On finance, he has emphasized the importance of fiscal conservatism, but points out the need for the County to add a professional grant writer. “I think we’re missing some important funding opportunities,” he notes. On ferries, he wants to see more County support for the Ferry Advisory Committee. “Ferries are our lifeline, but the system has been terribly run, and with long construction times for new boats, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. We have to have the strongest possible voice to avoid yet more waste and mismanagement.”
Lichter emphasizes: “It’s not just ferry service. We have to keep reminding Olympia that San Juan County is also part of the State of Washington, and it’s absolutely the most beautiful county—and with the very nicest people to represent.”