PORT TOWNSEND — After a campaign season of heated talk of poplar trees, potholes and health mandates, Libby Wennstrom and Ben Thomas are relaxing a bit.
Both Port Townsend City Council candidates enjoy commanding leads in Tuesday’s general election after Wednesday’s second count of ballots: Wennstrom with 2,535 votes over opponent Tyler Vega’s 946 votes for Position 5, and Thomas with 2,467 votes over Cameron Jones’ 818 votes for Position 1.
In the race for Position 2, the unopposed Aislinn Diamanti won 2,434 votes beside 45 write-in votes.
“I anticipated it was going to be somewhat like the primary,” Wennstrom said Wednesday, referring to her lead in August’s balloting.
In that election, Vega took 20 percent of the votes to Wennstrom’s nearly 76 percent, while candidate Sky Hardesty-Thompson had 4 percent.
Yet, “I thought it would tighten a little bit,” Wennstrom said.
A 58-year-old self-employed technical writer and vice chair of the Jefferson County Democrats, she had supporters who posted numerous campaign signs from one end of town to the other.
In recent months, she said, local residents contacted her about things she hadn’t realized were such hot buttons.
“People really care about potholes,” she said. Another controversial topic lately is the planned removal of 130 Lombardy poplar trees lining the city’s Sims Way entrance.
Her response: “How do we make a thoughtful decision to preserve that viewscape for the longer term?”
Wennstrom added that, after she learned of the poplars’ age and potential damage to their surroundings, she favors cutting them down before they fall down.
“I’ve taken quite a bit of heat for that stance,” she said.
An online town hall meeting on the poplars’ fate is planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday; participants can attend via www.zoom.us/join with meeting ID 826 6135 6962, passcode 568098. For audio only, phone 253-215-8782.
Wennstrom also was asked what she’d do about the county’s mask mandate — which comes under the county health officer’s jurisdiction, not the City Council’s.
“People are hot about things,” she said, though far fewer residents contacted her about something she thought was contentious: the future of the city golf course.
Vega, for his part, said he’s redirecting his energies.
“Someday I’ll probably win” a race for elected office, he said Wednesday.
For now Vega, 44, intends to focus on fatherhood — he has two children, ages 9 and 12 — and on opening a nonprofit IT support center in Port Townsend. An outgrowth of Dailey Computer Consulting, the company he works for, it could become a “community help desk,” he said.
“You’ve got to make an impact however you can,” Vega added.
Thomas, who ran against Jones for City Council Position 1, said he too received queries about health mandates. They were litmus-test questions, he said, questions voters used to judge him.
Thomas, winemaker at Port Townsend Vineyards, has said the proof-of-vaccination mandate for restaurants and bars was painful to watch. It seemed to affect business at the winery’s two locations, he added.
Thomas, 50, suffered a breakthrough case of COVID-19 this summer, and said he believes his Moderna shots, received in April, lessened the severity of his illness.
“I was down for a day and a half,” he said.
As he prepares to take his seat on the City Council, Thomas said he wants to hear from more residents — not only the “squeakiest wheels,” as he put it.
Reaching out to and receiving feedback from a range of people: “That’s the challenge,” Thomas said.
Jones, who, like Thomas, was making his first run for office, said he will spend his fall and winter renewing his focus on Woodbridge Farm, the Chimacum operation he runs with business partner Peter Mustin.
The 33-year-old’s jobs also include teaching yoga and working at the Mad Hatter in Port Townsend.
An organizer with Black Lives Matter Jefferson County, Jones intends to continue participating in local politics and grassroots activism.
Running for City Council was “a great experience,” Jones said last month.
On Wednesday, he added that he may run again in a couple of years.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]