Commissioner Bacon on Her Vision

"Vision is indispensable, and my record proves I am tenacious at implementing my vision."


My 2030 Vision and the Steps We Must Take to Achieve It

 When I ran for County Commissioner in 2020, I wrote my 10-year vision. I still stand behind what I said then. Below, underlined and in italics, you can see my 2024 comments on my original 2020 vision for 2030, plus thoughts on other priorities I have identified over the last four years.

I know the way we will succeed is with everyone at the table, working with civility as we creatively solve our problems together. My vision can become a reality with your help—your ideas, your involvement, and your endorsement.


In or By 2030:

·  Island County is viewed as a national model for how to achieve a modern economy nestled within a strong, protected, rural community. We have been recognized nationally for our emergency preparedness and smart management and mitigation of climate-change related environmental impacts. Shoreline communities from all over the country visit us to see how we did it.

·  Our citizens are confident that their neighborhoods and their local government have taken the necessary proactive steps to keep their communities safe during major emergencies.

·  Island County has more and healthier trees than we did in 2020, a necessary step in ensuring our aquifer recharge. Our streams and aquifers are protected. Our parks and trails are treasured and cared for. We have reduced our solid waste output by over 25%, grocery stores use biodegradable produce bags, no stores carry single-use petroleum plastic products anymore and citizens have easy access to compost their bioplastics and food waste.

·  We have safe and pleasant roadways for all travelers—people who walk, people who bike, and people who use motorized vehicles. Bicyclists, pedestrians, and users of all abilities can safely access transit and ferry connections, shopping, jobs, schools, and recreational activities. Citizens can still rely on free bus service through Island Transit. 

     That agency and all of our government services rely on electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, and electrical charging stations are available throughout the county. We have walk-on ferries at several port locations for the convenience of our tourists and citizens who’d prefer not to rely on automobiles to go on and off the island. Our local airports, marine docks and boat launches provide easy options for citizens and visitors who travel by air or boat. Our ferries provide reliable service.

·  Small builders have created a few new small housing projects, mixed income and mixed use, that are desirable places to live, and lovely to live next to. By this time, we can reliably house our teachers and nurses and other key workers, as well as our retail and service workers.

·  We are a diverse and intergenerational vibrant community. All citizens know they can access the services they need in the manner that best suits them. Every teenager knows at least five adults who are not teachers or family members.  And every senior citizen knows at least five children outside their own family.  As a 75-year-old retiree in 2030, I am involved in intergenerational activities that energize our community and economy.

·  Our economy has boomed as young entrepreneurs conduct their businesses online through our state-of-the-art fiber optic broadband network. Young families move here to make their homes and raise their children. South Whidbey no longer looks like what a 2020 audience at WICA looks like.

·  We who are senior citizens can safely age in our own homes with a network of services to assist us, but if we need more regular attention there are quality facilities available for us to live in with grace and joy.

·  Tourists come to the Islands both for the beauty of our landscape and healthy natural environment but also for a robust local food system which supports and empowers our farmers. 

·  The citizens of Island County and the Navy work together and trust one another as neighbors.

·  And in 2030, citizens consider Island County government a pleasure to work with.


Steps We Must Take to Achieve This Vision

1. How do we protect our rural character and natural resources?

·  We need to make the philosophy of retaining our rural character a part of our County mission—and the viability of all economic and housing development plans need to be viewed through that lens. And we must push our rights as a County to protect our forests and streams to the utmost edge of our authority. We need to be very clear about what’s important to us. Only by being aggressive about that can we avoid becoming a Lynwood with beach access. It is important that citizens who care about this be involved in the development of our 2025 Comprehensive Plan. You can find out more about this by joining the County’s planning engagement page here: .

·  We need to work proactively to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We will start this by making a County inventory of properties and resources likely to be impacted. Then we write and implement a Climate Action Plan. As Chair of the Board in 2022, I negotiated a Climate Resiliency resolution that was approved by unanimous vote, In addition, a Climate Resilience sub-element will be part of our 2025 Comprehensive Plan, which we’re working on this year.

·  We need to optimize the beauty and utility of our port areas. We should increase our water trails, and create campsites along our shores for the enjoyment of kayakers and others.

·  We need to encourage carbon-neutral activities. That means using and encouraging electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles and providing plenty of electric charging stations. It means encouraging the use of vanpools, and our wonderful Island Transit, and making trails friendly to ebikes. We must also revise our County codes to encourage carbon-neutral housing and commercial buildings. We have started our EV mission by purchasing electric County vehicles on Camano Island, serviced through our own new EV chargers. In Coupeville, the County received a $1M clean energy electrification grant and are using that plus the $3.5M we budgeted to do a major carbon reduction refit of the County Administration Building in Coupeville (which was built in the 1940’s). Also, as a member of the Board of Island Transit, I have supported that agency’s transition to hydrogen and electric vehicles.

·  The County needs to make providing recycling and composting options a priority. We need to state in our mission that our obligation to protect the Earth is an integral part of our obligation to protect our citizens. I am working with our local trash provider on Whidbey to bring the recycling and composting goal to fruition.

2. How do we keep a vibrant economy within this rural environment?

·  The County needs to become a hub for telecommuting and telework, which is the fastest-growing job structure in the country. Millennials and GenZ citizens expect to work within a telecommuting environment, and they will move here if they have connectivity. The County and its local partners need to work with the Governor’s Office for Broadband and other granting agencies to bring fiber optic broadband immediately to the County, and also ensure that cell phones can connect everywhere. Since I have been Commissioner, there has been more than $20 million in federal, state and county investments awarded in Island County to expand broadband infrastructure for enhanced internet access, and the Board of Island County Commissioners continues to make this a priority.

·  COVID really brought home to the Commissioners their role in supporting economic development in the County, and when I was the County’s HR Director I was heavily involved in the initiative to provide COVID grants to small businesses to keep their doors open. Since I’ve been Commissioner, we’ve spent $2 Million in ARPA funds to provide Community Service Grants to help buoy up local service agencies, in addition to the funds we regularly provide to such groups. We are also a sponsor and the approving body for the Island County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), a plan for regional economic development that will open grant opportunities to other jurisdictions in Island County that they otherwise would be unable to apply for.

·  I chair the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC), a group of citizens who review and recommend to the Board of County Commissioners the distribution of monies generated by the Lodging Excise Tax. In 2024 we are providing over $700,000 to organizations to sponsor events and activities that elevate the Island County tourism experience.

3. How do we enhance the quality of life for our citizens?

·  The County can ensure affordable housing for our local workers through zoning that encourages small, localized developments—through permitting accessory dwelling units, small boarding houses, and small duplex, triplex and 4-plex projects. Since I was elected in 2020, the Board of Island County Commissioners has approved over $10 million in affordable housing projects. And we’re far from done. The 2025 Comprehensive Plan will identify expanded zoning options for workforce and affordable housing.

·  We need to provide supportive housing for our citizens suffering through behavioral health crises. Since I’ve been Commissioner we have funded one permanent supportive housing project and are in the process of establishing another. But we still have a lot of work to do on this. According to the Countywide Planning Group, unincorporated Island County will need 230 permanent supportive housing units by the year 2045. We currently have 8.

·  The County needs to acknowledge the growing issue of aging citizens on the south end of Whidbey Island, and actively work with senior services and health resources to assist seniors to gracefully age in their homes with dignity.

·  We must serve those in need with loving kindness—the homeless, the addicted, the imprisoned. We at the County must recognize our responsibility as humans to care for those who need our help, our patience, and our understanding.

·  We must work with our Navy neighbors to push for a deconcentration of growlers for the life and health of all of our citizens.

·  We need to work strategically with our State and Federal partners to fund important public safety projects such as ferry access improvements, a roundabout at SR 525/ Bush Point Road, shoulder widening at SR 20 between Welcher and Race Roads, an elevated boat launch at Robinson Beach, public access to the Whidbey Airpark Light Industrial Zone, the Swantown Lake Tidegate replacement, and SR 532 Camano Gateway improvements.

4. And finally, how do we improve our citizens’ experience with the County so that they enjoy working with the government they pay for?

·  We must computerize all functions possible so that citizens can file, pay for, and follow their permits and other processes online. And we need to emphasize to County employees that they work for citizens who expect to have an impeccable customer service experience—and we at the County need to train them to provide that. Since I was elected, we have established an online budget process so that very soon citizens will be able to easily view and analyze our budget; we’ve improved our Smart Gov permitting system utilization so that citizens can now follow the process of their permits for themselves; and we’ve implemented other software systems in other departments so that citizen response and follow-up is more dependable and reportable.

·  We need to continue to work to make our processes and actions as transparent as possible so that citizens can trust that there aren’t any dirty dealings going on behind closed doors. Since January 2022, I have written a comprehensive newsletter every week that the Board has met, letting subscribers know what the Board did that week and what is planned for the following weeks—even including links and noting the marks in the recordings when specific issues are being discussed. I also host “Monday Tea with Melanie” every week, a time when citizens can discuss anything they want with their commissioner and with each other.

  • The County must also prepare its staff to continue to serve the public during emergency situations. When natural disasters occur, we who work at the County must be ready to assist our citizens in whatever capacity is needed. At my request, the 2024 Budget includes a new $100,000 fund for emergency preparedness, as well as a new training position in our Department of Emergency Management who will be responsible for training our employees in their emergency duties and will also assist local neighborhoods to draft their own Community Wildfire Protection Plans.



The Island County Commissioners are in effect the CEOs of a $138 million company with 500 employees. I was ready for this job when I was elected in 2020, because after 10 years of serving as the County’s Human Resources Manager I was thoroughly aware of the functions and knew all of the elected and appointed officials—and I was ready because I am a problem solver, something I’ve proven time and again since I was elected. I see problems, I identify solutions, and then I see those solutions through to implementation—even when taking the right action might have negative political repercussions. I can do this because I’m analytical and I have no fear of making changes for the good. As I often tell people, this is my super power. I’ve done this my whole life.

A few recent examples: I am the Commissioner who identified the need for new septic/sewer technologies in Island County, and asked my colleagues in 2023 to support asking the State for funds for a study—which the State has now given us, and now we’ve hired a consulting firm. BTW: the State gave this to us because they want us to identify septage solutions that can then be adopted by other jurisdictions in the State. That worked so well that I then identified a need for a water availability study, which is in our State ask for 2024 (I have been quite vocal about my concern over adopting 20-year population growth projections without knowing what our water availability is). 

I am the Commissioner who pushes for emergency planning and preparation, the one who asked our Department of Emergency Management for a presentation on our vulnerabilities after the Maui fire last August and who serves on the State’s Wildland Fire Advisory Committee. Because of my concern over lack of boat access on the west side of South Whidbey, I asked for a study on our boat launches, which identified an elevated ramp on Robinson Beach as a project we should implement as well as repairs to a boat launch on Camano. 

I was the County’s champion for the Climate Resiliency resolution, the Animal Welfare resolution, and the Fireworks resolution. I am the Commissioner who said we needed a contractor in Washington, DC to work on finding funds for necessary projects that Island County citizens can’t afford to pay for on our own. I meet regularly with citizens about County issues, and always try to find solutions for their problems that balance out the rights of the whole community with the desires of individuals in need.

 I have always been a consistent, effective, and creative problem solver and leader, who’s never run from a challenge or succumbed to pressure from those who were nervous of change.


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