Interview: San Juan County Councilwomen Elect

Christine Minney and Cindy Wolf

Christine Minney (left) and Cindy Wolf (right) / Contibuted Photos

On Nov. 3 (Election Day), county residents voted in two new representatives to represent Orcas and San Juan Island on the San Juan County Council for the next four years. In the race for San Juan County Council District 1, Christine Minney beat Ryan Palmateer with 5,992 votes (51.61 percent). On Orcas Island, Cindy Wolf beat incumbent Rick Hughes to represent District 2 with 6,219 votes (52.39 percent). I had the honor of getting the very first interview from both of our newly elected officials on Saturday, Nov. 14. Here are my conversations with Christine Minney and Cindy Wolf.

Mona Evans: Where were you born and raised?

Christine Minney: I was born in Idaho but moved to Washington shortly thereafter. We lived in Tacoma and Marysville before my family landed in Kingston/Poulsbo for the duration of adolescence. I moved here at 21 but still feel like this is where I did my growing up.

Cindy Wolf: Born in Los Angeles, CA, and my first four years as an Army Brat in Fort Ord and Germany. Moved back to L.A., living in several different neighborhoods.

ME: When did you move to the San Juan
Islands and what brought you here?

CM: I moved to San Juan Island in the spring of 1996 on a whim and a notion that I was meant to make my life here. Prior to that, I had only visited the Islands once.

CW: Moved to Orcas in 2010.

ME: Is this your first elected office? If not, what other political offices have you held?

CM: This is my first elected office, yes.

CW: Technically, yes. Although I served as a Precinct Committee Officer for the San Juan Democratic Party in 2018 and 2020. I ran unopposed for the position.

ME: What inspired you to run for this position?

CM: I find myself well situated in the community after living and raising my family here coupled with having just stepped out of the constructs of motherhood which leaves me in a position of having space and energy and drive to be of service to a community that I love. I also had lots of support and “cheerleaders” that encouraged me.

CW: In 2018, the Orcas Island Women’s Coalition (OWC) decided to run a candidate for County Council. By the fall of 2019, it was clear no other women were willing, so I said I would.

ME: What are your campaign goals while in office?

CM: I intend to be engaged in leadership and available to the community. I stand for transparent and effective decision-making while paying attention to the many voices in the community. I will be human and humane in my leadership.

CW: My clearest campaign goal is to support a cap on vacation rentals and address affordable housing. Beyond that, I will do my utmost to make decisions for the county that are good for the long term health of the islands and their people. I will also keep inclusion at the forefront of mind when defining goals.

ME: What do you feel are the top three most important issues in our community?

CM: Vacation rental permitting, affordable housing, and COVID economic recovery.

CW: 1) Affordable housing 2) Building a sustainable, diverse, ecologically responsible economy. 3) COVID response and resilience.

ME: Does it feel significant to be a part of only the second female-majority council in San Juan County history? (Reporters Note: In 1996, the three-person council consisted of two women and one man.)

CM: Yes! Interestingly, we also live in a county now with more elected women than men. This is forward-thinking and not typical. Two judges, the auditor, the treasurer, and two council people are all women.

CW: Yes! I love it! When women cooperate, we get a lot done in a very timely way.

ME: Do you think being female gives you a unique voice and perspective in governance?

CM: I don’t know that I see my perspective as unique simply because I am female. Perhaps, and very likely, life experiences such as mothering, lend to a perspective that isn’t as typical since the higher percentage of elected officials in governance is strongly male.

CW: I don’t know about unique, since we are the overall majority gender, but there are documentable, positive differences in the status of women and children when women govern. Malala Yousafzai brought this up when I saw her speak in Seattle in 2016. She said you can’t help but bring your daily priorities and your own life experience with you into office, so women really are needed to keep a balanced perspective in government.

ME: Is there anyone in politics that has mentored or inspired you?

CM: My inspirations are more often the strong women that stand and work beside their politician husbands. In particular, Eleanor Roosevelt and Michelle Obama.

CW: Representative Debra Lekanoff and California Governor Jerry Brown.

ME: Who are your fictional and nonfictional heroes?

CM: Fictional character heroes include Anne Shirley (“Anne of Green Gables”) and Jo March (“Little Women”). Both are so full of imagination and inspiration. My real-life hero is my grandma who is full of all of the things we love about our grandparents, plus a little more.

CW: Fictional: Prairie Wheeler in Thomas Pynchon’s “Vineland”. She meets people exactly where they are and pitches in wherever she can make the biggest difference. Plus she makes a mean grape jelly glazed bologne roast! Non-fictional: Malala Yousafzai. She is astonishingly courageous, clear-headed, tireless, and compassionate. Also, Angela Merkel for her example of calm, rational, and humane leadership.

ME: What is your favorite place on each major San Juan island?

CM: SJI: The Roche Harbor Disc Golf Course.
Lopez: A camping spot at Odlin County Park. Orcas: Moran State Park and the top of Mount Constitution.

CW: SJI: Lime Kiln State Park. Orcas: The breakfast counter at Luna’s before the pandemic. Lopez: Watmough Bay.

ME: Do you have any inspiring quotes that you live by?

CM: “I went looking for my dreams outside of myself and discovered, it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.”— Anne Shirley/L.M. Montgomery
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”— Eleanor Roosevelt

CW: “We who believe in Freedom cannot rest.”— from “Ella’s Song” by Berniece Reagon Johnson. “Do or do not — there is no try.”— Yoda

ME: Do you have any advice for high school students thinking about political office or engagement in politics?

CM: Participate in clubs and volunteer. Building relationships within that community is a great source of support and connecting for success. Participate in debate, take speech and presentations seriously, and be invested in English class beyond the basics. Always make good choices.

CW: If you don’t like the establishment, prepare to become the establishment. This is your world. You will be the people here in 20 years. What kind of work do you want to do? How should this place look and how should it be run? What resources do you need to make the world you want? Please let me help you.