Reflections on the first year of a six-member County Council

Bob Myhr shares his thoughts on the first of serving as chair of the six-member County Council.

Bob Myhr’s last day of the year as chair of a regular meeting of the San Juan County Council was December 18, 2007. Below is a brief summary of his parting remarks. Myhr continues as Council member from District 6 — Lopez/Shaw. Howie Rosenfeld from District 3 — Friday Harbor — will serve as Council chair for 2008.

I was honored to be the first Chair of the first six-member San Juan County Council under the new Charter government. I thank my colleagues for their support in 2007 as we worked together to implement our charter government and to address the myriad of issues coming before the Council.

2007 was quite a year! It was the first full year with six members of the Council as we continued our adventure/experiment with charter government. Of the now total of 13 elected officials, more than half — seven — were new in 2007. And we will have our 14th official in 2008 as our new Superior Court Judge, John Linde, assumes office. It was also our first full year with our new County Administrator, Pete Rose. Moreover, we had all new Council staff in 2007. So we experienced a great deal of change.

Although much work remains, the Council made good progress on charter-related changes: reconfigured the Planning Commission; adopted new Council rules and procedures; established uniform citizen advisory committee rules and procedures; completed several county code chapter 2 revisions; and initiated discussion of numerous other required code revisions.

Key actions taken by the Council on policy issues included: completed comprehensive plan redesignations from prior years; approved Rosario master plan; adopted Deer Harbor hamlet plan; finalized accessory dwelling unit regulations; authorized the new Superior Court Judge position; continued support for county planning with a winter Council strategic planning workshop and summer Nantucket (Pagini) “smart growth” session; and created a citizen Task Force on Ferries and Transportation to address our vital links among the islands and to the mainland.

During 2007, I believe the Council increased the transparency of our work through improved availability of agendas and documents, internet web site postings, and press releases. The Council also began to hold regular and special meetings on other islands, including at least five on Orcas and one on Lopez. These meetings were all well attended, and citizens expressed their appreciation for this Council effort.

We also experienced the first county referendum as provided for in the new charter. In the fall voters rejected the stormwater ordinance that the Council will now have to address in 2008.

Looking ahead, the County Council has much work to do. We have to address the issue of long-term budget sustainability. We must continue, as we did in 2007 for the most part, to keep our focus on the “county as a whole” and avoid “balkanization” brought on by special interests or locales.

We need to step back and remind ourselves that the San Juans are, in the words of the governor, the gem of Washington State, and one of the most beautiful spots in the world. We have to conserve, preserve, and protect this very special place of islands. We will also be wise to keep in mind that at least 50 percent of our property owners and taxpayers for whom we provide local government do not live here. We must remember that our citizens adopted the charter “to assert greater control over the actions of county government,” and we of the County Council, with the other elected officials, represent our citizens in this effort.

I want again to thank my colleagues on the Council and other elected officials, the entire county staff, and, especially, the people of the county for your support and encouragement during 2007. I look forward to serving together with all of you in 2008 to achieve the very best results for San Juan County.