Sharon Kivisto runs for county council| Guest Column

Sharon Kivisto runs for county council| Guest Column

Submitted by Sharon Kivisto

I’m Sharon Kivisto and I’m campaigning to be the council member representing Residency District 1 on the San Juan County Council. My 20 plus years of experience as a journalist in the islands has provided me with insight about the needs of islanders and the workings of county government. I’d like to use the knowledge I’ve gained to help preserve and increase the social and environmental integrity of the county.

During my 29 years on San Juan Island, I’ve worked in the tourism industry, owned and operated my own media business SanJuanIslander.com, served on the school board and the Homes for Islanders board, raised two daughters, purchased my own home as a single mom through one of the affordable housing programs, and volunteered in a variety of ways.

Like most of the candidates, I am concerned about the availability of affordable housing, the lack of diversity in our economy, the health of the Salish Sea and the Southern Resident Killer Whales, the proliferation of vacation rentals to the detriment of neighborhoods, the preservation of the environment and farming, and the cost of living in the San Juan Islands.

I graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Natural Resources. I also have a two-year degree in Photography from Palomar College. Caring about the environment and supporting groups such as the Land Bank, Wolf Hollow, SeaDoc Society, and Preservation Trust is important to me.

The pandemic has challenged us all in many ways and has also highlighted some of the ongoing problems. One that is especially troubling is the lack of equitable enforcement of county rules and regulations. Creating regulations without providing enforcement processes is commonplace in the county government and is unfair. Here’s a pandemic-related example:

An order was issued to close all lodging facilities including vacation rentals for several weeks at the beginning of the pandemic. As the order was not enforced, it was exploited. Most of the lodging owners/operators abided by the order. There were others, however, who did not. Since there was no penalty, the ones who suffered were those who obeyed the rules and lost business. If the order had included some teeth, such as vacation rental permits would be pulled for six months if the order was violated, compliance would have been much more likely.

We’re facing challenging times and there’s a lot of hard work facing the council. Completing the update of the Comprehensive Plan, diversifying our economy, making difficult budget decisions about services, staffing, and projects are just some of the challenges. Clear, timely communication between the county and the citizens will be necessary in order to make sure everyone is heard.

Moving forward we must embrace a perspective that encompasses the past as it reframes the future.

Read more about my campaign on kivistoforcouncil.com.

I’d appreciate your vote in the August 4 primary. If I’m fortunate enough to be one of the two candidates moving on to the General Election, I’d also appreciate your vote on November 3. Thank you for your time and consideration.