The day before being sworn in as the newest member of the San Juan County Council, Jane Fuller of Lopez Island said, “Now that I am in the role, I appreciate the gravity, and the leadership that people expect.”
After being sworn in on Jan. 5, she joined Cindy Wolfe (Orcas Island) and Christine Minney (San Juan Island), each in office for two years now, to form the first all-woman council in San Juan County. [See: “Women who lead: San Juans to have first all-woman county council,” Salish Current, June 28, 2022]
Fuller said she is excited about working on the issues facing San Juan County, and identified top priorities of housing affordability, the workings of the ferry system and “now that we have a hew comprehensive plan, a priority focus needs to be on codifying the policies that were recently adopted.”
Committee assignments will be decided next week, so Fuller wasn’t sure if she will be the liaison on these specific topics, but most of all, she “looks forward to establishing a collaborative relationship with my seatmates. I think what residents most want to see is a healthy, functional relationship. I believe we are going to work well together.”
A big task this year will be developing the biennial budget for 2024-2025, a two-year planning cycle.
Ferries, housing, tourism … and trust
Regarding ferry service, Fuller said “the future of this county cannot be hamstrung,” and suggested that there may be “small local fixes” that could help. Developing good relationships with our legislators is also critical to furthering solutions, she stressed, and she “sees the need to form strong partnerships and to be strategic about this advocacy.”
Fuller has been meeting with affordable housing organizations and said there is much to learn, and asked, “what is the scope of creativity that could help with this issue?” Housing affordability is “affecting all our businesses, service projects, even the county’s ability to hire employees,” she said, noting that this issue, too, will be addressed in code updates.
The Sustainable Tourism Plan now being developed interests Fuller particularly because of its focus on sustainability. “We do not have infinite resources and we need to manage what we have,” she said.
Fuller said she feels “passionately about issues of sustainability and being able to be resilient about the way climate change is affecting our lives.” Climate change is a big factor in sustainability, and “we are already seeing the impacts of climate change in the county,” such as some county roads that have washed out along the shoreline or streams, creating emergencies with people being cut off.
The Sustainable Tourism Plan will also need to dovetail with the comprehensive plan updates, she said.
Fuller was a Charter Review Commissioner and spent much of 2021 in meetings reviewing and drafting amendments to the County Charter. She was “grateful to have had that opportunity” to work with a diverse group and gain a deeper understanding of county issues and people.
While not all of the amendments put before voters were approved, as far as she is concerned, “whatever was left on the table will be up to the next Charter Review Commission.” The San Juan Charter requires a review by elected Charter Review Commissioners every 10 years.
Her priority for the next six to 12 months is to “learn how to do the job well, building trust and relationships both within government and with local businesses and nonprofits.” She wants to be approachable and said she will work on “understanding what is working, or what might be a better way, working in collaboration with department heads.”
“I’m very impressed with the caliber of people working here,” she said.
What residents want
Dave Meiland, from San Juan Island said, “The Land Bank is likely to go to the voters for reauthorization in 2024 and I hope the council will publicly support this. The Land Bank is hugely important to the county. I feel it is imperative to continue to conserve land in the county, especially in the face of the development pressure that’s at play right now, and the Land Bank is best positioned to do this.”
Fuller agreed and said she will “absolutely support the renewal,” and that it will be important to ensure that the public understands the value and importance of conserving these lands.
Barbara Sharp from San Juan Island said she wants “more support for the ferry debacle” and hopes the council will take a more active role. Fuller said she is ready to offer support.
Pete Kilpatrick from San Juan Island said the goal of the council should be “to maintain the balance that defines our quality of life in the county … the balance between preservation and public access, and that of maintaining a healthy and diverse economy. We’ll know we are achieving this balance if the county continues to be a place where young working families can thrive and prosper and continue to live in a place with a pristine environment. And if we continue to attract visitors who come not just for the natural beauty but are attracted to a vibrant and always improving community.”
Lopezian Sandy Bishop offered the following advice:
“A few things I hope for are:
- “Be willing to be changed, especially by those who do not share your point of view.
- “Enacting well thought-out policy can have a greater positive impact on change than popular votes.
- “Listen to as many constituents as possible before making a decision.
- “Accept that we live in a very complex time and we depend on you to hold the complexity and sort through the fixes.
- “Take good care of yourself.”
— Reported by Nancy DeVaux