Politics Blog

Ferndale mayor candidate Jon Mutchler Q&A

Five people are facing off in the Aug. 4 primary election to become the next mayor of Ferndale. The top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 3 general election.

Ferndale mayor is a nonpartisan office with four-year terms. The mayor makes 90 percent of the average salary for mayors in similarly sized Washington cities, and will earn $1,690 per month in 2016. The position is part time.

The Bellingham Herald asked the candidates a series of questions about their qualifications and key issues in the city. Responses below are verbatim as submitted. Other candidates’ responses are available at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog.

Candidate: Jon Mutchler, 55

Candidate Background: Jon Mutchler is a life-long Washington resident who moved to Bellingham in 1980 and Ferndale in 1987. He has been married to Diane for 30 years and they have 7 children and one granddaughter. Jon is the son of two educators and his wife, Diane, taught for several years in the Ferndale School District (North Bellingham, Mountain View, Central schools).

Jon and Diane started the Ferndale Alliance Church in 1988 and continue to lead this community church which serves and helps Ferndale area families.

Jon is an active runner, biker, swimmer, and skier. He has competed in seven Ski to Sea races, three Bellingham Bay Marathons, and seven Lake Padden Triathlons. He is dedicated to ensuring that the unparalleled quality of life and healthy outdoor enjoyment we experience continue for generations.

Music is a large part of his life and he has taught piano to hundreds of county youth. He has recorded several CDs of piano music and was the house pianist at Semiahmoo Resort for 17 years. Jon has been on the faculty of the Drayton Harbor (Blaine) Music Festival for 12 years.

Jon has built, from the ground up, two family homes in Ferndale and has volunteered and helped build forty homes with Whatcom-Skagit Housing (“self-help homes”).

Jon brings 35 years of Whatcom living, work, and service to the office of mayor. His dedication and commitment to a great Ferndale future is unquestioned.

Jon often says that his success will be judged by his and your children when they look back in 20-30 years and say, “Ferndale got it right. It made tough decisions. They planned well. And we’re enjoying this great city today!”


M.Div, Regent College (Vancouver, B.C.)

B.Mus, Western Washington University (Piano Performance/Jazz studies)

A.Sci, Olympic Community College (Bremerton)

West Bremerton High School (graduated third in senior class, 1977)

22 of 30 credits earned toward completing the AWC Certificate in Municipal Leadership

Work Experience:

Pastor, Ferndale Alliance Church (1988-present)

Professional pianist/teacher (35 years)

Driver/trainer for Holland America Westours (1983-1987)

Previous Public Offices Held:

Two-term Ferndale council member, reelected in 2013 with 78% approval

Whatcom County Charter Review commissioner

Ferndale School Levy Committee (1989)

Some Endorsements:

• Gary Jensen, mayor of Ferndale

• Tim Cornwell, current member of Ferndale EAGLE Board and former

Ferndale Planning Commissioner

• Fred Kennedy, Ferndale Planning Commissioner

• Robert Storms, retired Ferndale School teacher

• Rob Northouse, chairman of Ferndale Parks and Trails Board

• Mick Jolly, Karate Quest business owner and community leader

Why are you running for Ferndale mayor?

Folks from the left, right, and center, along with city employees and a large spectrum of citizens (small business owners, educators, law enforcement, home builders, etc.) have asked me to run.

Most notably to me are citizens who have not always agreed with positions I’ve taken on council (They tell me!) but still think I am the best choice to succeed Mayor Gary Jensen who asked me to run and has endorsed my candidacy to be your next mayor.

I am running because my family is fully invested in this community. My adult children all still live here and actively serve and give back to Ferndale.

As a pastor and former chaplain (“support officer”) I have seen many Ferndale families at their best and in their deepest need. It is likely that I have visited and been in the homes of more Ferndale families than all the other candidates combined.

I jog this city almost daily and can probably locate and identify every street and neighborhood. If you’re reading this you probably know me personally. You know that I listen, study, and although we might not agree on every issue I respect you and your concerns. I want what’s best for all of Ferndale. That will continue as your mayor.

Ferndale has elected me in my last three races (two for council, and Charter Review Commission last year). That is more success than the total electoral wins of the other four candidates combined. I know “politics” is a dirty word to some, but I bring to the office integrity and respect and those skills are needed when working with other city, county, state, and tribal leaders.

I bring the most experience, knowledge, and commitment to Ferndale life and values, and pledge to work with you for a great Ferndale future!

Have you attended any Ferndale City Council or other official meetings in the last year? If so, which ones?

I attend nearly all Ferndale City Council meetings and planning commission meetings. Although not required, I attend nearly all city council committee meetings.

I also attend most Ferndale School Board meetings, a number of Whatcom County council meetings, and most of the Charter Review Commission meetings.

What do you think of the plan to ask voters to approve a 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value property tax for a Metropolitan Park District?

I was the only council member to vote “no” to send this proposal to the voters on November 3rd. Simply put, I didn’t feel this was the right time to ask the citizens for a tax increase of this amount (about $125/year/home).

I had three reasons for my “no” vote.

(1) The citizens expressed very strong NO’s to the last two Ferndale tax measures: the one cent/gallon gas tax (to repair roads) and (2) the high school bond levy. These failed by large margins. There’s a message here.

(2) There are some other large tax measures coming up, needing the attention of the voters. First, the county jail, is also on the ballot. And second, the another high school proposal will be coming to us this election or next. We may be asking a lot at one time.

(3) My biggest reason for asking council to wait on this was a lack of shared-vision and support between council and our parks and trail board. Said another way, I felt there needed to be stronger support and agreement from both the council and the parks board before we all approached the citizens. We weren’t there when we took our final vote. Perhaps we will be by November.

What have you accomplished in Ferndale?

My greatest accomplishment with my wife Diane is that we have raised a wonderful family here in Ferndale. We have seven smart and successful children who give back to our community in many ways. They all have servant’s hearts and reflect what’s best about Ferndale.

We have built, from the ground up, two family homes in Ferndale and understand the home construction business and what it means to stand on both sides of the city permitting counter. We know the implications of city actions on the cost of a single family home.

We have built a church and congregation in our community, Ferndale Alliance Church, and have served it faithfully for 28 years. Through our church we have assisted many families and young people better their lives and obtain higher measures of character, wisdom, and success.

I have taught hundreds of Whatcom kids music and piano and been able to pass along the joy of music to many.

I have served the citizens of Ferndale for six years on the city council, working toward and achieving greater openness and transparency from the city, lower taxes, fiscal discipline, and the achievement of essential projects to better our city (library, police station, various road projects).

I fought for zoning changes that would help make new homes more affordable and give citizens more flexibility in having the homes they desire. I’ve supported zoning and setback changes to our code that help us reduce city growth costs. I have supported and fought for careful planning and traffic mitigation measures to protect our I-5 gateways so we don’t duplicate the poor planning practices of other cities when big stores come.

A plan to levy a penny gas tax in Ferndale to pay for roads and infrastructure failed at the polls last year. How should Ferndale pay for road improvements?

The citizens spoke loud and clear: they did not want to raise their gas tax to repair roads. This does not stop all road improvements, but it slows down the progress we wish to make.

A different tax the citizens did approve in 2012 was the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) tax. 2/10 of one percent retail sales tax goes toward street projects. This has been effective in bringing in around $360,000/year which has helped us with matching grants to get some projects done. We also continue to be dependent upon state and federal grants for the big projects like Church Road and (in the future) the Thornton to I-5 connection.

Going forward we depend upon our skilled staff to attract grant money for some of our projects. We need also to maintain and advance a development-friendly posture as a community so we can collect traffic impact fees (TIFs) and sales tax revenues which can be used for road improvements.

What does the city of Ferndale need to tackle in the next four years?

It is essential that we establish a respectful, and cooperative relationship with the Lummi Nation as it relates to development at Slater. The tribe has purchased land in and near Ferndale with ambitious plans. In a sense they are “just” another large land developer. However, because of their important and unique status as a sovereign tribe, they should be considered a “developer-plus.” I have worked hard to build relationships with tribal and county leaders, which will be needed as we move forward as partners in obtaining win/win agreements between the tribe and city.

We need to continue to promote the Ferndale brand. We are a great place to start businesses. We have a compelling story as a great small city and I will do all I can to help attract high wage employers.

We need to respect each citizen. I often reflect on the great service I get at local places like Haggens, Woods Coffee, Chihuahua’s, TNT Promotional, Find Your Fashion, and other places where I go in and leave feeling like they truly “treat the customer first.”

I want that to be your experience whenever you come to City Hall. And frankly, I believe that is the service you do receive in Ferndale — the tone and ethos having been established by the current mayor who, himself, is in the “customer service” business.

But those practices and values must be continuously reinforced and expected from the staff and public officials. They need to be center and core to what City Hall is about.

Finally, in the next four years the city will be hiring several new senior staff members as some of our outstanding public servants are considering retirement. Perhaps the greatest legacy of the next mayor will be the people he hires in key leadership roles.

Please visit www.VoteforJon.com.