Local Election

Whatcom County Council District 5 is new. Here are the candidates for Nov. 5.

Ben Elenbaas and Natalie McClendon are running in the Nov. 5 general election for the open Whatcom County Council District 5, the newly drawn Coast District.

Elenbaas drew 53% of the primary vote to McClendon’s 29%. Jamie Arnett, who had 18% of the primary vote, has endorsed McClendon.

District 5 covers northwest Whatcom County west of Interstate 5, including Ferndale and Blaine, plus Point Roberts, Birch Bay, Custer, Marrietta, Lummi Island and the Lummi Reservation.

Voters approved ballot measures in 2016 that changed districts starting in 2017 that created five districts with one representative elected from each district and two at-large positions elected by voters countywide.

The non-partisan, part-time position pays $31,867 annually during the four-year term. That rate rises to $35,802 in 2020 and $40,180 in 2021, according to the Whatcom County Salary Commission.

General election ballots will be mailed Oct. 18. Ballots don’t need a stamp but must be postmarked by Election Day. Ballot drop boxes open Oct. 18 and close at 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 5

These are the candidates for the District 5 Whatcom County Council position:

Ben Elenbaas

Elenbaas, 40, is an operations foreman at BP Cherry Point Refinery and runs a small Angus beef ranch.

Bio: He is a lifelong county resident and lives with his wife and children. He attended Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University, earning a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences with minors in environmental studies and geography. Elenbaas has worked at the refinery since 2001. The Elenbaases raise grass-fed registered black Angus cattle that they direct market locally and sell breeding stock. He served in an appointed position on the Whatcom County Planning Commission and was elected to the 2015 Charter Review Commission where he served as the chair. He is involved in several agriculture-oriented groups and is president of the Whatcom County Farm Bureau and vice president of the Whatcom County Cattlemen’s Association. He and his wife foster dogs with Main Street Mutt Rescue.

Neighborhood: Custer.

Funds raised: $33,991 by Sept. 24, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.

Funds spent: $23,937 by Sept. 24.

Largest contributors: Phillips 66 and Axiom Construction and Consulting gave $2,000 each. Emmitt Trimble of Anchor Point, Alaska; Nicholas Kaiser, Cary Clemenson and Dusty Gulleson of Bellingham; Paparoa Allison Trimble of Ferndale, BP North America Employee PAC, the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council and Cowden Inc., Guide Equipment each gave $1,000. Elenbaas loaned his campaign $3,000.

An issue of personal interest to him: Elenbaas is president of the Farm Bureau and vice president of the Cattleman’s Association and a rural resident. “I would like to use my perspective as being a farmer and dealing with policies for quite some time to help get policy on the ground that actually works for farmers, since I am also a farmer,” he said.

What trait makes him uniquely suited for this position: “I am a farmer. I work at an oil refinery. I live in a rural area. I earned my degree at Western in natural sciences through the Huxley College of the Environment. I am the president of the Farm Bureau. I’m the vice president of the Cattleman’s Association,” Elenbaas said. “All of those experiences is a perspective — in my opinion — that is severely lacking on our current council.”

Endorsements: Whatcom County Fire District 7 firefighters; Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild; Washington Laborers Union Local 292; mayors of Ferndale, Blaine, Lynden, Everson, Nooksack and Sumas.

Website: Ben Elenbaas for County Council on Facebook.

Natalie McClendon

McClendon, 64, is co-owner with her ex-husband of Turner Photographics portrait studio and nature and garden photography; she is serving her second term on the Whatcom County Planning Commission.

Bio: She is the mother of two grown children and has lived in Bellingham and Whatcom County for more than 20 years. McClendon earned an interdisciplinary degree in environmental politics and economics, with coursework in agricultural economics, from the University of Nebraska. She was a teacher in local schools focusing on at-risk children. She has volunteered with the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, PTA, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, non-commercial community radio, her neighborhood association, and as chair of the Whatcom Democrats. She has been a treasurer and managed several local election campaigns, and ran as a Democrat for the state House in 2012, losing 54% to 46% to former Rep. Jason Overstreet.

Neighborhood: Rural Whatcom County south of Ferndale.

Funds raised: $25,879 by Sept. 24, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.

Funds spent: $13,397.

Largest contributors: John Bosche of Everson gave $1,250, Abram Jacobson of Bellingham gave $900 and Lyle Anderson of Blaine gave $800.

An issue of personal interest to her: McClendon mentioned that she has experienced depression in her own family and is grateful she was able to spend time and energy helping that person before they could become homeless. “They are somebody’s child, somebody’s brother or sister. And at some point earlier in their life, we had an opportunity to change the course of their life,” Mclendon said, “We need to be able to address these issues before they get bad.”

What trait makes her uniquely suited for this position: “I think that I have the patience to deal with people who have a different goal and to work through that with them,” McClendon said. As a teacher she exercised that patience with at-risk students whose desires were often at odds with getting an education.

Endorsements: Sierra Club, Whatcom County Port Commissioner Bobby Briscoe, Whatcom County Councilman Todd Donovan, Lummi Indian Business Councilman Henry Cagey.

Website: NatalieMcClendon.com, Natalie McClendon for Whatcom County Council on Facebook.

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Warren Sterling in a graduate of Reed College of Media at West Virginia University. He interned at Politifact.com before joining The Bellingham Herald as a summer 2019 intern.
Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.