Community

Saying Goodbye

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Elected officials get melancholy at the end of their service and as we prepare for the transition to a Greg Hansen administration, I want to ponder where we’ve journeyed as a city.

When I took the reins from Mayor Gary Jensen, the city was in good shape. We were coming out of the deepest recession in a generation and had clawed our way back to financial health. Over the last four years, we grappled with the challenges of Ferndale’s popularity and the demands placed upon a 21st century community. Beyond the encouraging graphs and statistics, there a few moments to reflect upon.

June 2016: It was hot and the air at the Star Park construction site was full of dust and sound. It was the last day of construction and we had just received the news we weren’t going to make our 5pm deadline for opening the park. In the last six days, more than 2,000 volunteers and 300 organizations had contributed time, money and sweat to build the largest playground in the city during one of the hottest weeks of the year. Volunteers had been there from sunup to sundown every single day and the news was hard to take.

But we are Ferndale. We rallied, busted our butts, and got the playground in working order by 7pm for hundreds of waiting children. Today, thousands of children find joy at this iconic playground and it inspired a renaissance in Ferndale parks and recreation.

The next year we invested in a recreation program that brought activities, music and food trucks to our parks, with more events being added each year. Star Park proved that even though we have grown as a city, we are still a small town and can come together to move mountains.

September 2017:  It was a morning like any other. I was sitting and sipping at Woods Coffee, reading my city materials, with my “Visit with the Mayor” sign out front. Throughout my time as mayor, I tried to be available to the public; not just at City Hall, but in more casual places where the public could come and share their thoughts.

And they came and shared their ideas, concerns and hopes.  In return, I listened and occasionally found new volunteers for our city boards and even future council candidates.

On this day, it was a thoughtful realtor named Greg Crim who had some fresh ideas on what we could do to inspire more neighborly neighborhoods. With a little prodding, he agreed to be my nominee to the Planning Commission, where he volunteers his time to keep our zoning and development rules up-to-date and Ferndale-friendly.

During my time as mayor, I appointed more than 100 citizens to various advisory boards and commissions, including expanding the membership to the Arts and Parks boards, and forming the Ferndale Youth Civics Council and the North Whatcom Poverty Task Force. Bringing more people to the table has always been central to who I am, and it often starts with a civil conversation over a cup of coffee.

July 2018: It was fresh, clear and a little bit salty and came from 1,000 feet beneath my feet. That was the first time I tasted water from our new city well. It was a gamble to drill to that depth, but it was clear that our regional aquifer, a mere 200 feet down, was being impacted by regional growth. Going back to Nooksack River water was prohibitively expensive and there were only so many conservation measures we could enforce without impacting our residents and businesses.

So, we dug deep, and at just over 1,000 feet down, we struck gold: an untapped aquifer. This subterranean source will provide a reliable, clean and quality water source for our city. With the final blessing of the Department of Ecology, we are on track to connect the well to the city water system next year. After many years of anguish over the city water, a solution was finally in our grasp, and it tasted great.

December 2018: Kevin Turner stood in our City Hall meeting room and raised his right hand, taking the oath of office as our new police chief. It had been a yearlong process between Chief Michael Knapp informing us of his retirement and the installation of Chief Turner. After many phone calls, background research, interview panels and a well-attended community “meet and greet,” the choice was clear.

A new police chief is a big deal for our city and one of the largest decisions a mayor makes. The chief needed to be strong but kind, patient yet firm. An effective manager and a darn good cop. Luckily, Chief Turner was all that and more. Chief Knapp left some large shoes to fill but the “man from Utah” has done an excellent job building on success and creating his own legacy.

We continue to invest in cops and, as a result, our crime rate has plummeted, making us one of the safest cities in the state. Our officers continue to go above and beyond, serving with honor and distinction, with Chief Turner leading by example, starting that first day he took his oath to serve the City of Ferndale.

April 2019: The most important votes are always the closest. Everyone had said their piece and now it was time to cast their votes. I held my breath as councilmembers voted, “nay, nay, aye, nay, aye, aye, aye,” and there it was. The catalyst program passed four to three. A narrow victory but a powerful one; a game-changer for the future of the city.

After years of stagnation in our downtown, our planning staff came forward with a dramatic move. What if we solicited big proposals for the old buildings and spaces in our downtown core? Big buildings that would include plenty of downtown housing, commercial and retail space and serve as an anchor for an active downtown. We set the standards high, requiring public benefit and an accelerated construction schedule—in return, we could waive impact and connection fees. It was gamble and the council was deeply divided. But when the dust had settled, the Catalyst program was alive and this year we will see the final proposals go forward.

This program will change the shape of our downtown and hopefully inspire a revival for our thriving core filled with business and nightlife and all the things we hope for in Ferndale. This Catalyst is a real vote of confidence for the future of our city.

Today: Between all these moments, there’s the business of the city. The ribbon cuttings, the chamber meetings, the ordinances and resolutions, the big stuff and the little steps. It isn’t easy to take the high road, but I’ve tried my hardest to be a man of integrity throughout my public service. Looking back, I can say I’ve kept my promises.

I’m proud of the team I’ve promoted, recruited and retained at City Hall. We have an incredible and dedicated team of people working to improve our city every day. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to keep the city in good fiscal health and to build on our strengths.

But most of all, I’m proud of our city, making its way in the world to be a community where people want to live, work and play. Thank you for all the moments we shared together. We can all be pleased at the healthy and thriving city we are handing over to a new mayor and council.

Jon Mutchler is mayor of the City of Ferndale.

Past Columns
Climate Action Plan

September 1, 2021

Support Transportation Fund

October 21, 2020

Census Countdown

September 30, 2020

Don’t Fence Us Out

July 22, 2020

Back to the wild

May 6, 2020

Every Other Weekly?

April 1, 2020

Unified Command

March 18, 2020

Kids World

January 29, 2020

Fierce Urgency of Now

January 15, 2020

The Three Rs

December 18, 2019

Cold and Alone

December 4, 2019

Big Money Politics

November 13, 2019

A Win for the Birds

July 24, 2019

Road to ‘Nowhere’

June 26, 2019

Game Changes

April 24, 2019

Salish Sea Science

January 23, 2019

Cherry Point Amendments

January 16, 2019

Thursday
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Choose from 22 varieties of apples located on 62 acres at U-pick events taking place from 10am-5pm Wednesdays through Sundays at Bellewood Farms, 6140 Guide Meridian. Free apple bin train…

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Through Sept. 23, the Good Time Girls will lead free “Bellinghistory” tours at 6pm Wednesday in Fairhaven, and 6pm Thursday in downtown Bellingham. The Wednesday tour will highlight the…

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Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Art Aloft” Member Art Show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Oct. 15 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW.

Bowls to Fill at Good Earth

11:00am

“Bowls to Fill,” featuring members of Whatcom Artist of Clay & Kiln (WACK), will be featured from 11am-5pm daily through Saturdays, and 11am-4pm Sundays through September at Good Earth…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm daily at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St. Reka Zoltan’s wood cuts and etchings will be featured through Sept. 19.

Mindport Exhibits

11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Fall Exhibits at Jansen Art Center

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden from 11am-7pm Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 11am-5pm Fridays and Saturdays at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

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12:00pm

Attend the second annual celebration of Fest beers, “Sunnylandfest,” from Thursday through Sunday in Bellingham’s Sunnyland neighborhood at Twin Sisters Brewing Company, Wander Brewing,…

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From 3pm-5pm, attend “Semiahmoo Sips” in Blaine at the wine cellar at Semiahmoo Resort, 9565 Semiahmoo Pkwy. A sommelier will pour samples of four different wines from a rotating menu while…

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4:00pm

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5:30pm

Listen in on Robert Sarazin Blake & Friends at a Happy Hour Concert Series taking place from 5:30pm-7pm Thursday at the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 8pm-11pm,…

Trackside Tunes

7:00pm

Felix the Hammer will perform from 7pm-8pm at Kulshan Trackside at Waypoint Park, 1145 Granary Ave. From 8:15pm-9:45pm, the Whags will take the stage. The group continues to gain notoriety…

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7:30pm

Another world premier by iDiOM Theater’s Playwright in Residence, Rosalind Reynolds, takes place this weekend when The Wingmaker shows at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday at the Sylvia…

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7:30pm

Catch the Upfront Theatre’s long-running show “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at 7:30pm Thursday at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. At 7:30pm and 9:30pm Friday and…

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7:30pm

David Auburn’s Proof opens this week with showings at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday, and 2pm Sunday in Lynden at the Claire vg Thomas Theatre, 655 Front St. The drama tells the story of a…

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7:30pm

Michele Lowe’s The Smell of the Kill will continue this weekend with performances at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday, and 2pm Sunday at the Bellingham Theatre Guild, 1600 H St. The dark…

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9:00pm

Episcool, Heirz, & Winzlo wukk will join BUKI for a 9pm show Thurs., Sept. 16 at the Wild Buffalo House of Music, 208 W. Holly St. Other upcoming highlights include the Red Not Chili Peppers…

Friday
Whatcom Water Week

9:30am

Celebrate our local water resources when Whatcom Water Week kicks off with a “Run With the Chums” event Saturday at the BP Highlands in Birch Bay. Events continue through Sept. 19 and include…

Fall Classes at BAAY

12:00pm

Starting Sept. 12, Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth will begin offering a variety of classes and shows for students ages 4-17. All classes are currently scheduled to take place in person at…

Paintings of My Life at Gallery Syre

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Oct. 23 at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a selection of more than 60 works…

Eat Local Month

10:00am

Join Sustainable Connections for Eat Local Month through September as they support and share the work of local farmers, fishers, ranchers, chefs, restaurateurs and grocers in Whatcom, Skagit,…

U-pick at Bellewood Farms

10:00am

Choose from 22 varieties of apples located on 62 acres at U-pick events taking place from 10am-5pm Wednesdays through Sundays at Bellewood Farms, 6140 Guide Meridian. Free apple bin train…

Bellinghistory Tours with the Good Time Girls

6:00pm

Through Sept. 23, the Good Time Girls will lead free “Bellinghistory” tours at 6pm Wednesday in Fairhaven, and 6pm Thursday in downtown Bellingham. The Wednesday tour will highlight the…

Red Elvises and Beyond at Shakedown

8:30pm

Red Elvises will perform at 8:30pm Wed., Sept. 15 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The show will be followed by a number of other gigs this month—including Fossil Fire, Island Gigantism,…

Future Artifacts at MoNA

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Oct. 10 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

Art Aloft Member Art Show

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Art Aloft” Member Art Show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Oct. 15 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW.

Bowls to Fill at Good Earth

11:00am

“Bowls to Fill,” featuring members of Whatcom Artist of Clay & Kiln (WACK), will be featured from 11am-5pm daily through Saturdays, and 11am-4pm Sundays through September at Good Earth…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm daily at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St. Reka Zoltan’s wood cuts and etchings will be featured through Sept. 19.

Mindport Exhibits

11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Fall Exhibits at Jansen Art Center

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden from 11am-7pm Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 11am-5pm Fridays and Saturdays at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Yoshiko’s Folly: Shirbori Hats by Fine…

Discovery

11:00am

Catch longtime glass artist Steve Klein’s new exhibit “Discovery” from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through September 26 in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First…

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour Gallery Showcase

11:00am

View a Whatcom Artist Studio Tour Gallery Showcase from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 25 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. Presenting a wide range of media, the exhibit…

Anne Martin McCool at Scott Milo

11:00am

Acrylics by Anne Martin McCool will be featured from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 28 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave. Mixed-media works by…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

12:00pm

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Sunnylandfest

12:00pm

Attend the second annual celebration of Fest beers, “Sunnylandfest,” from Thursday through Sunday in Bellingham’s Sunnyland neighborhood at Twin Sisters Brewing Company, Wander Brewing,…

Semiahmoo Sips

3:00pm

From 3pm-5pm, attend “Semiahmoo Sips” in Blaine at the wine cellar at Semiahmoo Resort, 9565 Semiahmoo Pkwy. A sommelier will pour samples of four different wines from a rotating menu while…

Whatcom Teen Writers

3:00pm

Students in grades 6-12 can join Whatcom County Library System for “Whatcom Teen Writers” discussions taking place from 3pm-4pm on Zoom. Hone your craft, practice creative exercises, share…

What We're Reading Book Club

4:00pm

From 4pm-5pm, Deming Library staff member Erin Suda will host a virtual What We’re Reading Book Club meeting on Zoom. The club is for folks who love to share books they’ve enjoyed and hear…

Tween Reads

4:00pm

Youth in grades 4-6 can sign up for weekly “Tween Reads” discussions with Whatcom County Library System taking place from 4pm-5pm on Zoom. Whether you like graphic novels, fantasy, realistic…

Virtual Handbags for Housing

4:30pm

At 6:30pm, Lydia Place will host its annual auction and fundraiser, “Handbags for Housing.” General admission to the virtual event is free. VIP tickets are $125 and include early online…

Boundary Bay Music

5:30pm

Listen in on Robert Sarazin Blake & Friends at a Happy Hour Concert Series taking place from 5:30pm-7pm Thursday at the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 8pm-11pm,…

Trackside Tunes

7:00pm

Felix the Hammer will perform from 7pm-8pm at Kulshan Trackside at Waypoint Park, 1145 Granary Ave. From 8:15pm-9:45pm, the Whags will take the stage. The group continues to gain notoriety…

The Wingmaker

7:30pm

Another world premier by iDiOM Theater’s Playwright in Residence, Rosalind Reynolds, takes place this weekend when The Wingmaker shows at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday at the Sylvia…

Upfront Back in Front

7:30pm

Catch the Upfront Theatre’s long-running show “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at 7:30pm Thursday at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. At 7:30pm and 9:30pm Friday and…

Proof

7:30pm

David Auburn’s Proof opens this week with showings at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday, and 2pm Sunday in Lynden at the Claire vg Thomas Theatre, 655 Front St. The drama tells the story of a…

The Smell of the Kill

7:30pm

Michele Lowe’s The Smell of the Kill will continue this weekend with performances at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday, and 2pm Sunday at the Bellingham Theatre Guild, 1600 H St. The dark…

Wild Buffalo Live Music Lineup

9:00pm

Episcool, Heirz, & Winzlo wukk will join BUKI for a 9pm show Thurs., Sept. 16 at the Wild Buffalo House of Music, 208 W. Holly St. Other upcoming highlights include the Red Not Chili Peppers…