Quite possibly the youngest conservation district supervisor elected in the state, Mike Wiley Jr. hopes to bring a youthful voice to the group that encourages the local, nonregulatory conservation of natural resources.
However, due to technicalities in state law, there is a chance Wiley will be determined ineligible for the Clallam Conservation District position by the Washington Conservation Commission.
It all comes down to the number of chickens he has.
Wiley, 19, of Joyce, won the Clallam Conservation District's 2009 election with 114 write-in votes cast in Sequim and Port Angeles.
Incumbent to the position Donald Hatler received 60 votes.
Washington law states two of the three elected conservation district supervisors must be landowners or farm operators. Wiley doesn't own land, but he does help with the family homestead's garden and chicken coop.
"I'm not a landowner or a big farmer, but I'm hoping what we do here will get past the state board," he said while on a lunch break at Armstrong Marine in Port Angeles.
"We sell our eggs at a local store and have a pretty big garden and plan to have a large greenhouse soon."
Wiley lives on five acres with his parents while attending Peninsula College. He is a 2007 Port Angeles High School graduate.
"I'm really excited about the outcome of the election and the experience I'll get from this position, but there is a chance I don't qualify," he added.
"So, for the next week, I'm going to be reading up on all of this, trying to catch myself up on the procedures."
Tom Salzer, technical service manager for the state-level commission, said the state board reviews all applications from individual district elections during its May 21 meeting.
"Given the nature of this particular election, we may choose to physically examine and recount the ballots," Salzer said.
Wiley won with a write-in campaign. He never officially challenged Hatler, meaning the local district was not able to review his eligibility before the election.
But regardless of the state commission's decision, Wiley's win came as a surprise not only because of the write-in campaign, but because of his age.
"I have been involved with conservation district elections for 16 years and I am not personally aware of any supervisor-elect younger than Mr. Wiley," Salzer said.
"Community involvement in conservation districts is critical to their mission, and Mr. Wiley's desire to serve is commendable."
Wiley may win
When asked why he chose a late write-in campaign, Wiley said he wasn't familiar with the position before his friends and friends of his parents advised him of the unpaid three-year position.
He hit the phone tree, calling friends to get the vote out and took the election.
"I've been taking environmental science classes at the college and it made sense to me to pursue sustainability and conservation locally here in the county," Wiley said.
"This position should be a great learning experience for me."
Wiley said he has a lot to learn about how the district operates, indicating he didn't know much about the group before running.
He said he hopes to bring to the district a sense that sustainability and conservation are needed to make the North Olympic Peninsula sustain its beauty.
"I'm going to be reading up on the district and will try and meet those involved there this week, including staff," Wiley said.
In the long term, Wiley said, he wants to live in Clallam County, although he'd like to leave the area at some time before coming back.
"I'm young. There's plenty to see out there. I just know I want to keep living here in the future," he said.
Hatler, the incumbent to the position, has spent the past three years as a supervisor on the board. He is one of three elected supervisors. The other two are Marilyn Pollock and Joe Murray.
Hatler received the "Young Tiger" award from the state commission last year for his work and leadership in local natural resource conservation efforts.
The annual recipient of the award is someone who has helped the conservation district meet its goals and objectives in a short period of time.
The district also has two people appointed to the board by the state - Nash Huber and Ben Smith.
For more information on the Clallam Conservation District, visit http://clallam.scc.wa.gov. For more information on the state commission, visit www.scc.wa.gov.
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