Environmentalist says he would be pragmatist on Whatcom Council

A political scientist with expertise in elections is about to get more real-world experience in the subject.

Todd Donovan, a professor at Western Washington University, announced Tuesday, May 5, that he will run for a seat on the Whatcom County Council.

This is Donovan’s second run for public office. He currently sits on the 15-member county Charter Review Commission, elected in November 2014. The commission will finish its duties in July, before this year’s elections.

Donovan’s community resume includes chairman of the Whatcom chapter of Washington Conservation Voters, and work with Futurewise. Those environmental credentials might paint him as a liberal, but Donovan said his work on the council would be more as a pragmatist who appreciates both sides of an argument.

“Things get lost when people become hyperpartisan,” he said.

Donovan is the third candidate to announce for the council seat currently held by Pete Kremen, who announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election.

The other two candidates are conservative. Bruce Ayers is a former county Republican Party chairman; Theresa Sygitowicz has run for County Council before, and has called for cuts to the county budget and for more protections for rural landowners.

Donovan said he decided to run for several reasons, including the prospect of not having to run against an incumbent. He cited three issues coming before the council that will have a long-term impact on the county’s future: protecting Lake Whatcom, building a new jail, and updating the county’s 20-year plan for population growth.

“I think it’s an important moment,” he said.

County Council is a part-time job, and Donovan said he would stay at Western if elected.

“The professor thing is probably weird for people ... but I think it really gives me a unique skill set,” Donovan said. “I have to be able to do my job and not reveal my preferences and biases, and learn from people. … I think you need that on the council, and be able to change your mind sometimes.”