By Ian Ferguson
Whatcom County Council voted 5–1 to appoint Satpal Sidhu the district 2 representative, a seat left vacant following the resignation of Sam Crawford. The appointment is valid until the general election this fall.
In a phone interview, Sidhu said he was “excited and a little bit humbled,” to have been chosen for the position.
“I think my approach will be to listen to the needs of the community and make common sense decisions to support job growth, environmental protection and simplifying government,” Sidhu said, going on to highlight the importance of agriculture in Whatcom County.
“People are always surprised when I tell them we are one of the highest berry-producing* counties in the United States. We have a lot of berry production, but fairly minimal processing. There could be an opportunity to bring in business and create jobs. These are things that should be explored, because agriculture is an important feature of our local economy.”
Sidhu, Kathy Kershner and Jim Cozad applied for Crawford’s seat, which he vacated in January citing a work promotion. Councilmembers Carl Weimer, Ken Mann, Rud Browne, Barry Buchanan and Pete Kremen voted for Sidhu. Councilmember Barbara Brenner said she voted for Cozad because of his commitment not to run in the general election.
Whatcom County Republicans issued a press release expressing their disappointment that Sidhu was chosen instead of Kershner, a Republican who served four years on the council. The release said Crawford was a Republican-endorsed candidate who was voted to the position four times in a row, and as such his replacement should also have been a Republican.
“Why then has the current county council gone against the will of the people and given the district 2 seat to a liberal Democrat who did not win the vote of the people in district 2 in his bid for state representative in 2014?” the statement reads. Whatcom County elections are historically non-partisan.
Sidhu took exception to being labeled a “liberal Democrat,” and said he would be able to represent the wants and needs of the district he has lived in for 30 years.
“I really defy this labeling of people,” Sidhu said. “The same person may make a ‘liberal’ decision one day on one certain topic, and a ‘conservative’ decision the next day when faced with a different issue. Our values should be, make a common-sense argument and let’s weigh the merits of that argument, instead of this political rhetoric pitting liberals against conservatives. It’s not good for the country.”
Sidhu lives in Lynden and has worked as an engineer, business owner and a dean at Bellingham Technical College (BTC). While working at BTC, Sidhu helped create a degree program that trains local students for high wage jobs in local refineries and manufacturing industries. He also owns two businesses – The Spice Hut, a teashop in Bellingham that he co-owns with his wife Mundir Sidhu, and LyndenBerry, a company that exports berries to Asia.
In 2014, Sidhu was the Democratic candidate for district 42a of the Washington House of Representatives. He received 44.3 percent of the vote but lost the election to Republican Luanne Van Werven, who garnered 55.7 percent of the vote.
County councilmember Ken Mann, who voted to appoint Sidhu to the vacant seat, said Sidhu’s business background was a major draw. “I’m excited to have the benefit of his business experience on the council,” Mann said.
Sidhu said he intends to run for a council position in the fall election.
“The new county jail and water rights are some of the issues that will be facing the council fairly soon. As an engineer with construction experience, I think I will bring a valuable perspective to help the council deal with some of these issues,” Sidhu said.
The original version of this article mistakenly quoted Satpal Sidhu as saying “dairy-producing.” Correction made March 26, 2015.