Sounder, Journal and Weekly endorse Hughes and Palmateer | Editorial

Some local election seasons, it’s clear who our editorial staff will choose to endorse.

Other years, it’s more difficult because multiple candidates bring talents to the table.

The November 2020 election is the latter.

Incumbent Rick Hughes and challenger Cindy Wolf are running for San Juan County Council Residency District 2. Christine Minney and Ryan Palmateer are running for San Juan County Council Residency District 1. All county voters select both of the positions.

There are aspects of all the candidates that we appreciate and believe will bring insight to the position. But there are two people running who we feel stand above the crowd: Palmateer and Hughes.

What first drew us to Palmateer is his passion for the environment. His experience with advancing technology while maintaining energy conservation and green building standards is a valuable asset to have in a rapidly evolving world and a community that values its natural environment as much as the San Juan Islands do.

Palmateer’s community service experience includes serving as chairman of the Energy Roundtable; co-founding Transition San Juan and Transition Orcas; being a steering committee member on Transition Lopez; being a group leader with Citizens Climate Lobby; and participating with both the SJI Stewardship Network and SJI Grange #966. He’s also the president of the San Juan Islands Electric Vehicle Association.

Palmateer outlined clear goals for his service on the council, which include addressing the affordable housing and vacation rental crises. He stepped into the candidate field with an experience-based vision for what he plans to accomplish during his tenure as well as noticeable leadership skills. We would like to see Palmateer use his ability to lead and his environmental prowess to propel the county toward an economically self-sustaining and environmentally friendly future.

Hughes has been in his position for two terms and is a business owner and vacation rental operator. Opponents of his reelection claim these detract from his ability to make unbiased decisions and assert that major local issues — like vacation rentals, the economy and the environment — have not been sufficiently addressed by him. We disagree and believe that one of his primary commitments as a council member is his attention to the community as a whole. Hughes is a third-generation islander and it shows in his long-term vision for the San Juans.

From our perspective, as an entity that covers county government on a weekly basis, we’ve seen the following from Hughes: passion; follow-through; intelligence; consideration of all sides; a clear understanding of county code and policy; and a deep belief in the beauty of our island communities and its people.

Here are some of the projects that Hughes was instrumental in either launching or completing: Affordable Housing Real Estate Excise tax; vacation rental ordinance that requires permits and enforces penalties for those not in compliance; development of the Washington State Ferries Long Range Plan with all of the county council’s requests included; completion of the park and ride at Orcas ferry landing; purchase of Lopez Hill and Odlin South on Lopez from the Department of Natural Resources; establishing the Deer Harbor trail system and finishing the Deer Harbor Bridge replacement; and replacement and upgrades of countywide marine facilities; and getting the Exchange back up and running after it burned to the ground.

In addition, the county now boasts its lowest debt level in more than 15 years and has more than $2 million in its rainy day fund up from $85,000 when Hughes started.

We have seen Hughes make himself available to members of the public on any issue at any time of day. For him, this isn’t a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. It is a calling. It is a vocation. We hope Hughes can continue to work hard for our county on a local and state level for another four years.