Next month Orcas voters will choose candidates to serve on a variety of boards and commissions including the fire, hospital and school districts and the port in the Nov. 2 election.
The Islands’ Sounder asked the candidates a series of questions including how long they’ve lived on Orcas; their reasons for running for office; particular experience for the position; something they’d like the voters to know about them; and what they see as the top three priorities. Their answers are below.
Orcas Island School District #2, 4-year terms
I have lived on Orcas since November 2018. I am running because I have three children who attend Orcas Island School District. Serving as a school board member is an opportunity to further engage and serve our community and be part of our children’s educational journey. I love the community-driven environment of the school, the emphasis on outdoor education, and the commitment of the staff. The last 2 ½ years have been a journey in education and I am incredibly proud of our School District and all we have overcome to ensure our students continue to be engaged learners.
I have been in the arena of education for over 20 years. I began teaching in my early twenties for the Anchorage School District in Anchorage, Alaska. During my tenure with the district, I taught 3rd and 4th grade, helped to develop and pilot mentoring programs designed to support and retain first-year teachers, taught Writer’s Workshop implementation, and served as a district Literacy Liaison. Since leaving Anchorage, I now work with adult learners who are going to school to obtain their Bachelor’s or Master’s in Elementary Education. Serving in this role provides me insight into school districts throughout the United States. While I miss the classroom every day, I truly find great pride in serving the role of developing strong educators.
I grew up in Holly, Washington. A sleepy little beach road on the Hood Canal. After college, my husband Daniel and I lived in Alaska and a short stint in Texas. All the while we were yearning for four seasons, saltwater, and a good rainy day. Daniel and I finally made the move back to Washington in 2018. We have lived on Orcas for three years and it feels like home again. I love a good campfire, John Prine, laughter, and maybe an IPA thrown in on the side.
I see the top priorities as powerful teaching and learning; technology; and community engagement.
Candidate did not submit answers by press time.
I have lived on Orcas for 28 years, from 1974 until 1988 when I graduated from Orcas High School. I moved back to Orcas in 2007 with my wife Kate Long and kids, Arla and Sam and I served on the Orcas School Board for 8 years, and am returning again because I feel my previous experience and history can help keep the district on track to build on previous successes. I do not have any specific issues that I think the school district should address in the future.
Orcas Fire Commissioner District #2, six-year terms
Wesley H. Heinmiller
I bought my house in Deer Harbor in 1995 and have lived here full time for 15 years
I am running for re-election as our commissioners each bring several skills to the table and my business acumen along with my integrity, honesty, and dedication make me the best candidate. This job requires a person with business experience. We hire a fire chief to take care of the firefighters and EMS needs and day-to-day supervisions. During the last six years, I have proven I know how to run the business portion of the fire department and be a responsible steward of the communities tax dollars in the most efficient manner to serve the public.
I have run a successful business for over 40 years surviving 3 recessions and now surviving a pandemic. I know how to make dollars work and I am committed to truth and integrity.
I am a fixer that’s not afraid to clean house and make sure the right people are involved to get the job done correctly and safely in a no-nonsense manner for both the community and Orcas Island Fire and rescue
The department needs to guarantee the safety of our community and ensure continuity of operations while adhering to a fiscally responsible 5 and 10-year equipment replacement plan. My goal is to accomplish all of this without going back to the community for more tax dollars. For more information go to “Sayyesforwes.com”
We are losing volunteers at an alarming rate, and in less than two years we lost three of the four department Paramedics, along with about 80 years of Fire and EMS experience.
This trend will continue without adjusting the culture and leadership.
My previous 25 years of public safety experience, combined with 15 years as a firefighter Paramedic on Orcas, have given me extensive experience in problem-solving, negotiations, consensus building, policy, and protocol development. This has given me the optimal credentials for Fire Commissioner.
My focus is honest responsible governance while ensuring the health and forward progress of our amazing department.
The top three issues the Fire Protection District should address in the next six years: 1)We must make recruiting, training, and supporting a robust volunteer group a priority. 2) Identifying, articulating, and being worthy of the funding necessary to continue to operate. 3) The department needs to reestablish a relationship with the community; to co-create an organization capable of meeting their needs.
We must create a culture where vulnerability is rewarded, instead of punished. People want to be accountable. Unless we rebuild a culture of leadership, safety, inclusion, diversity, and trust, we will not achieve the other priorities.
Port of Orcas, 4-year terms
My family has owned property here since the early 1960s. I’ve personally been a homeowner here since 1989.
I am running because I would like to contribute to the Orcas community in an area where I have some knowledge and expertise. The Airport is a prized community asset, and I want to make sure it stays as such. Flying around the country, I see many small airports that are run-down and clearly not appreciated by their owners. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen here.
I am a long-time pilot and so understand the airport environment, and also a businessperson who understands stewardship. This airport is owned by the taxpayers, and I have experience in maintaining valuable assets for the benefit of the owners.
I would like the voters to know that I am open to talking to anyone about the airport and community. If you have questions or comments, please contact me.
The top three issues the Port Authority should address in the next four years include 1) Rewriting the five-year plan with some common sense and a dose of reality, 2) maintaining the runway, taxiways, and terminal in top-notch condition, and 3) carefully looking at how the airport can better serve its neighbors, pilots, and the community through various projects.
Candidate did not submit answers by press time.
Michael D. Triplett
I have lived on Orcas for 26 years. I’m running to continue to prevent the build-out of a “big city” airport as was planned by previous commissioners, I have been on the Port Commission for two years and am the current Port liaison with the EPRC.
I would like the voters to know that I’m in constant contact with the people of Orcas so I have the opportunity to get their input on current Port issues.
The top priority is to keep our small, rural, safe, and friendly airport as unchanged as possible. As the privately owned parcels uphill of the airport continue to be developed, we are faced with an increase in storm-water run-off which increases the flooding of the Port property. Plans for infrastructure at the Port to deal with these expected increases in stormwater runoff must be made and implemented to protect current and future Port assets. Due to a demand for more hangars at the Port, the Commission and Port Manager are currently going through a rigorous process to determine our options and the feasibility of each option.
Public Hospital District #3, six-year terms
Pegi A. Groundwater
I have lived 11 years on Orcas, five years before that on San Juan while commuting to Orcas each day to build our house.
I’m running for the Hospital District because I believe that good health is essential to our community well being and I want to promote sustainable health care for all island residents.
I bring 10 years of experience assisting Medicare beneficiaries and seven years assisting ACA beneficiaries get the insurance they need. I also acted as my mother’s caregiver during her last years which gave me tremendous exposure to our island’s healthcare system.
I would like voters to know that I am passionate about promoting good health and accessible health care for all islanders.
Priorities: Immediately, the changes in Medicare funding for our clinic. Longer-term, identifying and addressing unmet health care on Orcas and increasing our focus on sustaining good health to defer or avoid health problems.
I was aware of an opening on the commission, and I had been looking for a way to give back to the Orcas community since my retirement.
I was an EMT and paramedic with Orcas Fire for 35 years and the EMS supervisor with responsibility for budget, training, equipment purchase and personnel.
While I recognize we will never be able to please every patient, our goal has to be an integrated medical system responsive to the needs of our more remote island life; taking care of all medical needs we can on the island, and providing follow-up with specialty care. The commissioners are the representatives of our community to work with the provider group and administration to achieve these goals.
I’ve lived on Orcas since 1973. I have many friends among old-timers and relative newcomers. I don’t seem to be going anywhere soon—- in other words, I’m not hard to find if you have thoughts about OUR medical clinics and system.