Three candidates seek Crawford’s seat on Whatcom council

Three people known in Whatcom County political circles are bidding to become the newest Whatcom County Council member.

Jim Cozad of Toad Lake turned in his application hours before the 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, deadline, to join Kathy Kershner and Satpal Sidhu as the candidates to replace 15-year council member Sam Crawford. He announced his resignation last month, to go into effect on March 1.

The remaining six council members must appoint Crawford’s replacement by the end of March. They are scheduled to make their selection on March 17.

Cozad, who happens to be Crawford’s neighbor, is a retired Sehome High School teacher who served until 2012 as executive director of the Whatcom County Re-Entry Coalition, now called the Restorative Community Coalition.

“I was helping people come back from incarceration and trying to decrease incarceration rates,” Cozad said Thursday in an interview.

Not surprisingly, Cozad is keenly interested in the new county jail. Council members will decide in the next couple months whether to put a sales-tax increase on the August ballot to pay for construction of the jail in Ferndale.

“I’m really interested in looking at better ways and alternatives to reduce recidivism rates, and save the county money,” Cozad said. “I’d love to be involved in those discussions, I know that. It is kind of a passion of mine.”

Cozad challenged incumbent Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, for his state Senate seat in 2012. Campaigning with “no party preference,” Cozad lost to Ranker and a Republican challenger in the primary.

Kershner and Sidhu announced their interest for the council seat last month.

If Kershner is appointed, she will be back on the council after losing her bid for re-election in 2013 to Barry Buchanan.

“I believe my recent experience could add value to the work on the council over the next several months until a replacement can be elected,” Kershner wrote in her application.

Kershner hasn’t said publicly if she would run to retain the seat in the November 2015 elections, regardless of whether she is appointed. Cozad said he has “no intentions” of running to keep the seat, “but that doesn’t mean I might not change my mind.”

Sidhu has said he is interested in running for the office. He’s coming off a defeat in November in a bid to replace Jason Overstreet in the state House. He ran as a Democrat against Republican Luanne Van Werven in the general election, but he does not strongly identify with the party.

“In the realm of real life, we are all progressive, conservative and liberal at different times, (given) different issues and different decisions on hand,” Sidhu wrote in his application. “I like the nonpartisan character and role of the County Council.”

The three applicants are scheduled to give five-minute presentations to the public at the council’s 7 p.m. meeting on March 3. That meeting’s agenda should be available on Wednesday, Feb. 25.