Blaine, Birch Bay residents prepare to cast their votes

Published on Wed, Oct 19, 2011
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The Northern Light asked every candidate in a contested Whatcom County race appearing on Blaine and Birch Bay voters’ ballots,  “How will you best represent Blaine and Birch Bay in county government?” Their answers are below.


County Executive

Jack Louws

As Mayor of Lynden, working with many elected leaders throughout the county, I came to appreciate the unique characteristics of Blaine, Birch Bay and other communities in Whatcom County. It takes time and effort to ensure the goals of each community are realized. I will be asking people from Blaine and Birch Bay to serve on boards and commissions and provide community-based input on issues. I will lead the county staff by example, making sure we are working for your community’s vision.

Whatcom County needs to do a better job through the next comprehensive plan review, allowing our communities to chart their future. I once described the cities in Whatcom County as brothers and sisters. As such, the parent needs to allow each to grow into the individual it was created to be. The mix of residential, industrial and retail zoning and densities should be determined by the cities, not by a one-size-fits-all model. I will draw from direct experience with comprehensive plan reviews and get this accomplished in the next four years.

The job of Whatcom County Executive is about the nitty-gritty of operating one of the largest organizations in our community.

I have developed multimillion-dollar budgets and lived with them. I know what it’s like to look a worker in the eye and explain why he no longer has a job. I negotiated successfully with five unions to keep Lynden on track.
I have the qualifications and hands-on experience needed to run this county in an efficient, customer-service oriented manner for Blaine, Birch Bay and all of Whatcom County.

Doug Ericksen

Imagine what it would be like if our county government was accountable, responsible, delivered measurable results, and (above all else) was focused on private sector job creation.

I get it. I am running for Whatcom County Executive to put my experience and leadership skills to work taking our vision and making it reality.

I understand what is special about the Blaine and Birch Bay areas. Blaine is emerging as the up-and-coming part of the county. Birch Bay is transforming from a resort community into a city. I look forward to working with leaders in Blaine and Birch Bay to determine the best path forward for the area.

All areas of Whatcom County will benefit from a county government that is open and transparen – a county government that is committed to working with you to protect our quality of life.

I am the only candidate running for County Executive possessing the broad base of experience needed to create jobs and protect our quality of life. For over 13 years I have been bringing people together to get the big projects accomplished, protect our jobs and improve our quality of life.

I know what it is like to make the tough decisions, to stand up to the intense pressure applied by special interest groups and keep my word to those I represent. I have been tested, and I have proven that you can trust me to make the tough decisions that are best for our community.

Whatcom County Sheriff

Bill Elfo

As your the Whatcom County Sheriff for the next four years, I will continue to build on our record of successes in preventing crime and keeping Blaine and Birch Bay a safe place to live, work and raise families.

The Birch Bay area experiences crime and safety issues that are similar to cities. To address this, we established the Birch Bay neighborhood deputy program to work within the community not only to respond to crime, but also to prevent it.

Our crime prevention efforts were successful. Crime rates throughout Whatcom County and the Blaine and Birch Bay communities dropped more than 40 percent to levels well below that of similar counties and 56 percent below the state average.

When gang issues were detected in Birch Bay, the Sheriff’s office made presentations to educate the community and school officials on the extent and nature of this problem. The Birch Bay neighborhood deputy regularly meets with Blaine school district officials and the Blaine Police Department to address youth-related crime.

Resources continue to be devoted to eradicating gang issues. This includes a gang specialist who has identified 30 criminal gangs with more 400 members. The criminal interdiction team was refocused on preventing gang violence in neighborhoods.

My proven ability to build and maintain critical relationships with public safety agencies and community organizations will continue our success in keeping the Blaine and Birch Bay communities safe today and with my re-election, even safer tomorrow.

Steve Harris

Steve Harris has been a deputy with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s office for 16 years and has served the last eight of those years as a detective.

According to Harris’ entry on the Whatcom County elections website, he will work to increase the resources that are devoted to solving crimes rather than merely stopping criminals if elected sheriff. Harris will reassign supervisory staff from purely administrative roles back to patrol duty to better fulfill the county sheriff’s mission to protect the community.

Information collected from the Whatcom County elections website.

Whatcom County Treasurer

Steven Oliver


I am honored to serve as the Whatcom County treasurer. I have served in the treasurer’s office for more than 12 years providing exemplary public treasury management. During my tenure, I have focused on safeguarding taxpayer money, being an efficient and effective manager and administering the law while providing the best customer service in the county courthouse. I’m committed to excellent public service, and I have the right balance of local government and private business experience that has delivered results for taxpayers.


Specifically, I can represent Birch Bay and Blaine in several ways. Over the years, I have had many conversations with Birch Bay residents regarding possible incorporation. I have served on the Ferndale City Council, so I have an excellent understanding of small city operations and funding. I will be a valuable resource to these discussions in the future. Recently, there was a large embezzlement of public funds at the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District. I do not serve as this district’s treasurer since they had previously “opted-out” under a provision in state law. Had I served as their treasurer, independent financial reports would have been available to the district commissioners, the State Auditor’s Office and ratepayers to easily identify the theft, if not prevent it from happening at all.

I know these areas well, their histories as well as deep understanding of its municipalities and taxing districts. I can help find the best solutions to our future challenges.

In today’s volatile economic conditions, experience counts more than ever. I would be honored to continue to serve another four years as your county treasurer.


Brian Smith

Brian Smith has worked in the finance and investment field for the past 20 years, currently owns Bellingham Capital Management and has managed more than $100 million of client investments.

Serving as Whatcom County Treasurer, Smith will provide new leadership at a crucial point in the current economy, according Smith’s entry on the Whatcom County elections website.  Smith will work to apply his knowledge and experience in managing systems to make sure the taxpayers get their moneys’ worth.

Information collected from the Whatcom County elections website. Smith had not provided a photo as of press time.

Whatcom County Auditor

J. Lynne Walker

The Whatcom County Auditor must treat all taxpayers, voters, parties and candidates equally, with courtesy and fairness. I have stressed throughout the campaign the importance of making sure the office makes the most of its resources, and offers all citizens of Whatcom County the highest quality service.

Most people don’t know what the auditor does. Changing the name of the office to the “Office of Elections, Licensing and Recording” is a simple step toward making services more accessible to all citizens by clearly identifying the services of the office so citizens know where they are located.

Communication is one of the keys to making sure citizens of Birch Bay and Blaine are well represented. It’s past time to take advantage of technologies that allow our citizens better access to and communication with their government. Voters today are technically savvy, and election results should be easy to find on the county’s website and through social media accessed by computers, laptops, mobile devices – and whatever comes next.

I believe there are many good, knowledgeable people in Birch Bay and Blaine who could make a difference if they knew how to get started. I will hold an annual workshop where anyone considering running for local office has a neutral place to go to learn where all the basic information is and get their questions answered.

After 24 years of the same leadership, it’s time for a fresh perspective and new ideas to make the services of the auditor’s office work better for all citizens of Whatcom County.


Debbie Adelstein

The people of Blaine and Birch Bay, like all the citizens of Whatcom County, will see my commitment to impartial, fair and open elections. That is why I have chosen not to seek any party endorsements or endorsements from other candidates since I believe that the officer who presides over elections must be free from any appearance of influence from any political party or individual when counting your ballot.

As your chief deputy auditor for the past six years under Shirley Forslof, the current Whatcom County Auditor, I have participated at a senior leadership level in several key innovations including the transition to vote by mail, implementing the federally mandated changeover to optical scanned ballots (no more hanging chad) and bringing the auditor’s recorded documents online to enable easier public access.

I’ve supervised the day-to-day operations of the auditor’s office, which includes 16 employees and a $2.7 million annual budget.  For the last six years we’ve returned an average of 4.5 percent of our budget back to the county administration through innovation and cost savings measures. We continue to look for ways to be more fiscally responsible with your tax dollars.

The functions of the auditor’s office are strictly prescribed in state law. With a presidential election and redistricting coming next year, I think the citizens will look for stability and solid leadership in the auditor’s office.  I will bring that leadership, non-partisanship and a seamless transition to the office if I am elected. I hope you’ll agree that experience matters.


Whatcom County Council, District 1, Position B

Tony Larson

I was elected to the Council 10 months ago to represent every person in every part of our county. While there are many issues in need of leadership, my highest priority is the protection of existing and creation of new jobs. Secondly, we must eliminate wasteful spending and reset our priorities so we can save our core services.

Our economy is the key driver of our quality of life, and our local businesses are the key driver of our economy. We must support and encourage these job creators and make sure our policies are not stifling their success.

I will work to create a mechanism to consistently expedite permits for companies expanding and creating jobs. BP Cherry Point Refinery recently broke ground on their $400 million diesel hydrogen unit investment, which will employ approximately 1,500 during the two-year construction phase. The county must step in early to facilitate the permitting on projects like these.

Just as many families and businesses in our community have had to learn to do more with less, local government has to eliminate wasteful spending and find creative ways to provide core government services at a lower cost. 

I have a degree in economics and finance, and I’ve owned and operated multiple businesses in both prosperous and difficult times. I understand what it takes to bring fiscal discipline to an organization. As your councilman, I will continue to use my experience, leadership skills and common sense to make a positive difference in local government.


Pete Kremen

I’ve been representing the greater Blaine and Birch Bay communities for 27 years, both in the state legislature and as Whatcom County Executive. During that time I have acquired an excellent understanding of the needs of both communities.

The current mayor of Blaine, Bonnie Onyon and the current Blaine Police chief, Mike Haslip, have personally endorsed me because of my accessibility and responsiveness. Additionally, I’m proud to have the personal endorsement of the current Blaine Chamber of Commerce chairman, Bob Boule. I will continue to provide accessibility and effective representation to the City of Blaine on the County Council.  

I’ve devoted similar attention to Birch Bay, and I will continue to provide that kind of service on the Whatcom County Council.

Recently I was recognized by the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce for providing, on very short notice, portable rest room facilities for the community during the Labor Day weekend. I’ve also helped provide financial resources for the Birch Bay community with their attempts to determine if incorporation would be feasible. I’ve also supported major transportation improvements to what would be the county’s fourth largest city if it was incorporated.

I have very close and critical relationships with our United States congressional delegation, especially with U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, who are former colleagues of mine from service in the state legislature. These relationships, along with close ties to U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, will be critical to help secure the necessary funding for the berm project, a major endeavor to provide both environmental and economic benefits to the greater Birch Bay community.


Whatcom County Council, District 2, Position B

Sam Crawford

Blaine and Birch Bay have experienced the fastest population growth in the county, and depending on the national economy, growth will likely continue at a higher pace than the rest of Whatcom County. There is a vibrant sense of community in the northwest portion of the county, and for good reason. The residents’ positive vision for the future of Birch Bay is evident as we have worked on road and traffic projects, the 2004 community plan, and coordinating stormwater management with shoreline enhancement concepts.

Blaine’s city government is constantly engaged with the county in coordinated planning and civic improvement. I also see a strong ethic on the part of the heavy industry to the south to make ecologic and economic contributions to the community. As I’ve gotten to know so many of you over the years and continue to meet and work with more and more locals, I ask that you vote for me to ensure county government stays strongly focused on addressing the needs and concerns of Birch Bay and Blaine residents.





Christina Maginnis


My name is Christina Maginnis and I am running for Whatcom County Council District 2.  Listening to the public is one of the most important aspects of this job, as is being informed on a variety of critical issues coming before the council. We need to add medium sized businesses with stable living wage jobs and make the best use of the Economic Development fund dollars on the ground. I support a unified emergency management system, so you get a fast response if you have to call 911.

As Blaine and Birch Bay grow, we need to work together on solutions for growth planning and end the expensive lawsuits the county keeps losing. We need council members who will work to reduce flooding and stormwater pollution, and value the protection and restoration of water resources, such as Birch Bay and Drayton Harbor. I have worked on water issues throughout the county and will make sure that Whatcom County steps up to fund priority water projects countywide.

I know that my work with local governments, and my technical science training would allow me to be the best choice to find honest answers on the coal terminal and have an open public process deciding on the new jail.  With large projects like the new jail and the coal terminal, you need to trust that your county council is informed, will listen to citizens’ input and will represent your values.

I ask for your vote on November 8, so I can bring transparency and trust back to the Whatcom County Council.


Whatcom County Council, District 3, Position B

Alan Black

My wife and I live in Blaine, and I currently serve on the Blaine City Council.

As an Army pilot in Vietnam, I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for my decisions and actions under fire that saved lives.

I had a full career as a pilot for United Airlines, retiring as a captain flying 747s.  My job required a high level of responsibility. I made accurate decisions under stressful situations.

Our dollars are limited; expenditures must follow wisely defined priorities and not exceed our resources.

My priorities as council member would be to grow local job opportunities, increase job training programs and help our local businesses to grow. I would also work to keep farming sustainable, prevent sprawl and protect vital marine habitat and fisheries. I would work to ensure that stringent environmental standards are followed when considering the proposed coal export facility at Cherry Point and associated rail traffic impacts and broaden the EIS to include all stakeholders. I would also work to safeguard countywide EMS services and preserve the social safety net.

As your council member, I would listen well, respond to citizen input and support transparency and accountability. I would also accurately represent and reflect the concerns, issues and needs of our communities and small towns in the council’s decision-making process.

Will a vote for Alan Black bring new ideas and a positive direction to the county council? Yes. I am sensible, predictable, pragmatic and a good listener. I ask for your vote on November 8.


Barbara Brenner

Blaine and Birch Bay are unique areas with a need for different approaches. I have always been very responsive to both areas and will continue. Responding to individual residents’ needs in both areas is an important way I can ensure they are appropriately represented, as well as maintaining a good relationship with Blaine city officials.

Whatcom County continues to have an excellent relationship with the city of Blaine. I have met with Blaine officials many times over the years on issues, especially dealing with growth. Recently I worked with the Department of Ecology to support a low-impact development proposal near the city since it could become part of the city in the future. I respect Blaine’s jurisdictional boundaries and have always tried hard to find solutions on which both the county and Blaine agree.

I have supported a resident deputy in Birch Bay to ensure better protection of the area. I attended a Birch Bay meeting to educate the public regarding increased gang activity and what we can do to assist in reducing this problem. I have a long history of involvement in beach clean-ups, in environmental protection of the fragile watershed through identifying and addressing the Birch Bay’s water quality threats and impacts of storm-water-related flooding/erosion on area property.

I voted to allocate funds for upgrading the watershed. I pushed hard to create opportunities for local residents to retrofit their properties with low impact development options to reduce/eliminate runoff. I proposed low-impact development retrofits be allowed as substitutes for the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management advisory committee fees if they can show measurable reduction/elimination of runoff. I hope that will happen.


Fire District 21(North Whatcom Fire and Rescue), Commissioner, Position 5

Larry McPhail

If re-elected I plan to represent the Blaine and Birch Bay area the same way I have during my past two years of service.

While I have been a fire commissioner, North Whatcom Fire and Rescue has continued to increase both manpower and equipment. Last year the district added a fire engine and a ladder truck to the area. 

Also with creative scheduling the district has been able to add more staff to each of the stations in the area. With more equipment and manpower at no added cost to the taxpayers I feel the residents of Blaine and Birch Bay will feel that the North Whatcom fire commissioners are responsive to their needs. During the past two years the commissioners have been quite proud of the response times of both the fire engines and the ambulances. 




Dean Berkeley


Berkeley has served as past Vice President of the Sedro-Woolley Fire Department Association.  There he was responsible for ensuring members had current training and regularly attended meetings and training, fundraising for the community, and building a strong community network.

According Berkeley’s entry on the Whatcom County elections website, his goal is to bring back a strong community involvement with the fire service. He would like to see the current NWFR fire houses staffed through paid on-call or volunteers. Paid on-call and volunteer fire fighters are trained to the same standards as paid staff.

His first priorities are to review the response times and fire fighter training. In these tough economic times, volunteers are crucial to the district’s success. Berkeley believes he has the desire to revitalize the community spirit. He encourages more public involvement in the fire service.

Information collected from the Whatcom County elections website.