A Profile of Scott Lancaster’s bid for Orcas District 4 (Orcas West) County Council position
By Margie Doyle
(A similar profile of Rick Hughes’ bid for Orcas District 4 (Orcas West) County Council position precedes this article)
Scott Lancaster, Orcas family man and retail/wholesale business owner, spoke recently with Orcas Issues of his experience and perspective qualifying him to serve on the San Juan County Council.
Lancaster’s background in retail and customer service goes back three generations in San Diego, Calif., where his grandfather started a grocery/liquor store that evolved into a store and restaurant still open in San Diego’s Old Town.
Lancaster and his wife Therese, son Patrick and daughter Lindsay, have lived on Orcas Island for 20 years (Patrick is now attending college and working in California). “My seven years on the school board have given me experience with the same type of government as the county council – a board with diverse ideas and background, working to manage budget and employees to the betterment of the organization.”
Lancaster has been deep in the island lifestyle from the start, first coming for an American Legion Fishing Derby with friends. The Lancasters operated Bartwood Lodge on the north shore for a year’s trial basis. Then, as they were sitting in the ferry line, Paul Garwood, owner of Island Hardware and Supply on Crow Valley Road, offered Scott a job in the lumber yard there.
“Selling is selling,” said Lancaster, and so he worked for Garwood, progressing to General Manager and Vice President. In 2008, the opportunity to buy Orcas Island Hardware in Eastsound came up and the Lancaster family took the plunge.
Lancaster finds community politics, “working with people who aren’t of like minds and don’t have solutions,” an exciting challenge. He says that through the positive experience of working on the Orcas Island School District Board, “I’ve proved I have the sense and sensibility to study and understand and issue before the discussion and come to a decision – and I sometimes change my mind.
“But by being able to get to the point of the problem, I’ve also been able to change other people’s minds.”
He thinks those attributes will give him a strong hand in dealing with the County’s ongoing budget shortfall. The County Council and district school board are both policy-making boards, he points out, and “when you run up against some of these regulations, you have to look at them and see what’s stopping you form what you want to accomplish. Then either change your desired outcome or write policy to accomplish what you need to accomplish.”
“The county has a Prosecuting Attorney to oversee and interpret laws, but the Council has to make the final decision, not necessarily the Prosecuting Attorney.”
As a lifelong businessman, Lancaster addresses the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) and Shoreline Master Plan (SMP) updates, saying, “Both have implications for the future of business; it depends on how you look through the telescope, with a narrow or wide view.
“The regulations now being discussed have the potential to stifle the building industries that are behind the revenues of the county building tax and sales tax. If we can’t afford to build here, we’re losing a sense of the middle class.
“We need reasonable growth and development and that needs to start at the County’s Community Development and Planning [CD&P] department counter. We don’t want to regulate small business out of business.
“Overall, we’re a petri dish for the bigger world.”
Lancaster and his council race opponent Rick Hughes have written a joint letter stating their opposition to the Charter Review Propositions on the November ballot. Lancaster says that great strides have been made in the CAO review and in planning for solid waste: “We need to give [the existing Charter structure] more time.”
Reverting back to the three-person legislative body doesn’t solve the personnel problem, Lancaster says. “Three people can get elected, but that doesn’t mean they can manage the budget or personnel.”
Changes can be made through the referendum process of the current charter “to allow more accountability to the electorate with the budget process and the hiring of department heads.” He supports the “hands-off” structure between county council members and county staff, while understanding that “wall” may frustrate the electorate. Still, he says, “having all three commissioners, council members, walk into staff offices doesn’t work either.”
Going forward, Lancaster sees, “an unbelievable amount of challenges before us in the county: environment, policies, business. My experience has given me the tools to solve the problems we’re heading towards.”
(An interview with Lancaster’s position on separate issues facing Orcas Island and the County will be posted next week.)