Candidate, Island County Commissioner District 1
Securing the Future of Island County
Melanie feels deeply committed to serve as a devoted caretaker of this amazing place known as Island County, and having spent the last nine years working intimately with the Board of Island County Commissioners, she wishes to continue the forward movement of both sense and compassion established by Helen Price-Johnson and other community leaders.
An experienced executive and manager, Melanie left her job as the International Compensation Manager for a Fortune 500 company nine years ago to serve Island County as Human Resources Director, championing worker benefits and process improvements, providing solutions sensitive to both taxpayer and employee needs. Besides her work with the county, Melanie has devoted her life to working for the public good. She has served the U.S. Army in military intelligence, been a consultant to tribal governments, a NOW leader, founding member of an educational endowment foundation, a member of numerous city committees, a prison chaplain, and chair of a planning commission and zoning board responsible for the 10-year plan that guided her city’s growth while still a fast-growing region in Minnesota. Melanie is a high-profile problem solver who sees solutions, not affiliations.
The 2030 Plan for Island County:
The 2030 Plan for Island County:
LET'S STOP TALKING AND START SOLVING.
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.
- Island County has more and healthier trees than we did in 2020. 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
That’s my vision. Isn’t it nice? So how do we get there? These are some of the steps we need to take at Island County to achieve that 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We need to provide supportive housing for our citizens suffering through behavioral health crises.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
The Island County Commissioners are in effect the CEOs of a $110 million company with 500 employees. I am an experienced executive and manager. In 2010 I quit my job as the International Compensation Manager for a Fortune 500 company working with employees in 48 countries in order to move this beautiful place. I know how to drive complex work forward.
After nine years working hands-on as the Human Resources Director for Island County I know how our local county government works. I know more about how Island County government functions than probably any other County Commissioner candidate has ever known when they ran the first time. I work intimately with all of the elected officials and department heads, and I understand their missions and their aspirations for their departments and offices, and I understand the barriers that they face in accomplishing those goals. I am a proven problem solver. I see problems, I identify solutions, and then I see those solutions through to implementation. 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.
Some other things I’ve done in my life: I served in military intelligence in the US Army, I chaired a planning commission in a fast-growing city, I served on the board of a domestic violence shelter, I’ve worked with tribal governments, I was a state senate intern, I chaired a NOW state conference, I was a founder of an educational endowment foundation, I established, developed and sold two businesses, and I have even been a prison chaplain. 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.
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.