The former chairman of Lummi Nation has been appointed to fill the remainder of Todd Donovan’s vacant seat on the County Council.
Ballew was picked by a vote of 5-1, with Council member Tyler Byrd voting no.
The term will last until the November General Election results have been certified.
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The 2017 election cycle was the first to have new Whatcom County Council districts, which voters approved in 2016, and Donovan was elected to the new District 2 seat in November. To serve in his new post, Donovan resigned from the at-large, position B seat.
The vacancy generated a great deal of interest, with a total of 29 people applying for that seat.
Each of the finalists gave a short presentation to the County Council before members made their selection.
Ballew said he was humbled to be among the finalists.
“You have a great problem in front of you, selecting from so many applicants to serve our community,” he said.
The other finalists were:
▪ Bellingham resident Seth Fleetwood, an attorney, former Bellingham City Council member and former member of the County Council.
▪ Natalie McClendon, Bellingham-area resident and business manager who recently completed a four-year term on the Whatcom County Planning Commission.
▪ Lummi Island resident Patricia Dunn, senior financial executive with more than 20 years government experience.
▪ Blaine resident Alicia Rule, social worker who was newly elected to the Blaine City Council.
▪ Cliff Langley, a Bellingham-area resident and retired Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputy.
▪ Carol Frazey, a Bellingham resident and president of Fit School Inc.
Finalists also were asked questions after their presentation.
Ballew, who had served as tribal chairman for the past five years, was questioned the longest.
Council member Rud Browne asked Ballew what he would do if there was a conflict of interest between a decision representing the County Council and one representing the Lummi Nation.
“What would your intentions be?” Browne asked.
“As a member of the County Council, I would see my responsibility to the entire county,” Ballew replied.
Ballew added that if there was a potential conflict where there would be a personal gain for him, he would recuse himself from such a vote, just as any other member of the County Council would be expected to do.
Byrd then probed further, saying that as past tribal chairman and one who could seek election to that seat again – and serving a short 10 months on the County Council – he was concerned there were votes that could come up in which Ballew would do what was best for the tribe and not the county in general.
Ballew said he was committed to helping the county move forward and doing “right by all the people of Whatcom County.”
Donovan said he was having trouble following the line of questioning, noting there was a current County Council member who was a former member of another government. He was referring to Barry Buchanan, who has served on the Bellingham City Council.
“We are always having contract negotiations and conflicts with the City of Bellingham,” Donovan said. “Should that council member then recuse himself whether he’s personally benefiting or not but potentially benefiting the City of Bellingham?”
Browne said he asked Ballew about the conflict of interest because it was the most frequent reason given to him by people who opposed Ballew’s appointment, but he didn’t hold that view.
“I can’t believe he would have served as (tribal) chair for five years if he didn’t know how to navigate that very issue with his own community,” Browne said, “because any group that you represent where you have multiple constituents, you have the risk of conflict of interest.”