Mary Ellen Winborn challenges Shelia Roark Miller for Community Development position


A conversation with Mary Ellen Winborn
By Lizzie North

Twenty-two years ago, local architect Mary Ellen Winborn and her husband Joel chose Port Angeles as the place they wanted to live and raise their family. Now, with both children grown, Winborn is eager to use her skills and experience to Clallam County, running for Director of Community Development.

Winborn took time to discuss the Director of Community Development position at her home, which is now campaign headquarters as well as her company’s office.

Already it’s a learning process. “As I was painting signs, I was wondering, ‘what does this have to do with being the Director of Community Development?’ And then I decided, at least this shows that I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

“Most people don’t realize the significance of this position,” Winborn says. “It’s bigger than a city planner: You work with city planners. It’s bigger than a county planner. You’re responsible for long range planning for our natural resources, for the overall health of our environment.”

Observing “so many missed opportunities for our community’’ motivated her to throw her hat in the ring.

“Most people didn’t realize they were voting on the health of building within the constraints of our environment” when the Director of Community Development position became an elective office.

Long-range planning involves the upcoming comprehensive plan as well as issues ranging from septic systems to the impact of Dungeness water rules on building permits in Sequim,” Winborn says.

Typically, residents encounter this office when applying for a building permit. People often worry about being turned down, or being told “No, you can’t do that.” But issuing building permits is only “a small, front office part of the job,” Winborn says.

An important first step with any design, before considering a permit application, is to find out what hazards may exist.  Is there an eagle habitat? Shoreline issues? Shifting bluffs or fragile wetlands?  Good designs come from knowing what problems may be encountered before even beginning the permit process.

While you can go to the office website and click to download a building application, no one is overseeing the kind of long- range zoning restrictions required to protect our natural resources as a healthy environment for all residents, Winborn says.

Instead of thoughtful consideration, the office relies on issuing conditional use permits, she says. Hiring a professional plans examiner, “someone with the skills to evaluate alternatives beyond word-searching the building codes,” would expand ways for our communities to find creative solutions.

“Telling people ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ discourages professionals trying to do their best on a job,” she adds.

Where would Winborn like to start making changes?

“We need to look at our communities with fresh eyes and recognize that what you see now is not going to impress you if you’re looking for a place to relocate or a place to launch a new business.”

Winborn notes that for an architect, the “big picture” view comes naturally. Every project needs to fit in and work well with its neighbors and its environment. Good design starts from the bottom up. To produce results that serve the goals of the clients and the interests of their communities, an architect has to coordinate with workers, professionals, skilled craftsmen and suppliers.

“Besides,” Winborn says, “when you design and build in your own community, you face the quality of your work every day; you’re critiquing solutions and evaluating changes for the next 20 years whenever you walk or drive past.”

Soft-spoken, she’s an admitted introvert whose speech still echoes her New Orleans roots. This is her first election campaign.

She laughs when asked what books are on her nightstand.  “Well, there’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – although I learn a lot more from people than from any book.”

Another book is older:  The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jean Jacobs, “who first took a look at what makes a city vibrant,” Winborn says. “It takes years for something to change and it’s important to know its source. ”

“Local is where you can really make a difference,” says Winborn.
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  1. Bryan Frazier

    Mary Ellen is right, plan from the bottom up taking all things into consideration. If you look at the unattractiveness of the Carlsborg Industrial park you can see the mess that ineffective planning and code enforcement has on a community, I personnaly invite you all to come and see.

    The county thus far has runied the quality of life for most of us here in Carlsborg and now want us to pay for their mess by paying for a sewer system that never should have been needed in the firs place had the county done their due diligence concerning the environment, water supply and zoning.

    The county’s long rang plan is to possibly pipe water from Port Angeles through Carlsborg to Sequim when water here in Carlsborg and Sequim runs dry. After all “Port Angeles has the same amount of water rights as Tacoma”, they say.
    (Gray & Osborne, inc Meeting Minutes, Carlsborg Sewer Meeting Minutes Stakeholder Meeting #2-Carlsborg Urban Growth Area Water Demand and Mitigation Alternatives. December 12, 2013. Page 5, Paragraphs 20,21).

    We need fresh eyes and perspective at the county level and I believe Mary Ellen Winborn may be just that.


    Bryan Frazier

  2. Herbert Senft

    This should be about Mary Ellen Winborn who I met recently at a Sequim Council meeting and she had great reviews from people I trust. The county certainly could use fresh eyes and a new perspective. An architect may not be enough considering what we have done in the last 20 years. A landscape architect might even be better. 🙂

    I will vote for this lady and hope she can make some intelligent changes.

    Bryan Frazier wrote: “The county thus far has ruined the quality of life for most of us here in Carlsborg and now want us to pay for their mess by paying for a sewer system that never should have been needed in the first place had the county done their due diligence concerning the environment, water supply and zoning. The county’s long rang plan is to possibly pipe water from Port Angeles through Carlsborg to Sequim when water here in Carlsborg and Sequim runs dry.”

    Due diligence? I never saw the postings for public hearings and they are now checked off as having been done regarding this sewage issue. Mind you, the public only had the chance to download a 410 page pdf from the Public Works Dept., and this was a DRAFT!

    How can a public hearing and commentary be made when the information is not even there. Hey, if you don’t mind a pressurized sewer line going over the Dungeness River you deserve what you get. Nowhere in the pdf were issues like floods and erosion to bridge supports considered. Nor what would happen in an earthquake. In either case manual cut off valves might be difficult to get to because of infrastructure damage – swim across a 100 year flooded river? Not in my job description!

    Do vote for Mary Winborn and any other competent future Clallam County employee. As for City Council members, look for good replacements. Some of the stuff that Bryan Frazier mentioned is actually on the cautious side. With a sewer system Carlsborg land will be re-zoned to a higher density, resulting in more $$$ hookups and loot for Sequim and the local land owners.

    Yum, I can taste that sweet smell of sewage revenue even now. Water issues in 2015 are not going to be the same as in 2050. I suggest that Carlsborg develop their own treatment plant and return the treated water to the aquifer west of the Dungeness River.

  3. Herbert Senft

    Years of Failure, No Consequences
    should be read before voting. I met Mary Ellen Winborn as she came to post a sign up on my Sequim property.After talking to her I told her to put up TWO signs, so taken was I by this refreshing alternative thinker.

    It is not that we should be voting out incumbents, but that we should be voting IN folks that think better, wisely and with the viewpoint that we are the stewards of land lent to us by our children and grandchildren.

    Stewardship is often forgotten in the rush to profits and ‘balancing the books.’

  4. Herbert Senft

    With the current zoning Carlsborg may well NOT have needed any sewage treatment plant. Trouble is that there are many large landowners who wish for zoning changes so they can sub-divide. In that case you will need a sewage treatment facility and it WILL be paid for by the taxpayer.

    Sequim happens to have an overdeveloped sewer treatment plant and will be happy to get Carlsborg sewage. Not only will they get a gallonage charge for the effluent they will get the treated water for groundwater enhancement east of the Dungeness.
    All hydrology studies show that it is the area WEST of the Dungeness that needs to be replenished. Mind you, that Carlsborgians will face a 7,000 dollar hookup as well. I am unsure who gets that loot, the County or Sequim – perhaps it will be a pimping fee.

    One argument FOR the Sequim hookup is that it is capable of dealing with metals and chemicals as well as normal effluent. At least that is what I am told. So why not a Carlsborg plant and aquifer replenishing pond? Why, because there might be metals that a normal sewage system might not be capable of dealing with and groundwater could be contaminated. YUP, that might be the case.

    Mind you, I do not think Carlsborg residents throw much worse crap in their toilets than do those in Sunland.
    HOWEVER, there is a point to be made: The CARLSBORG INDUSTRIAL PARK is already discharging their wastes as is everyone else into septic tanks and the water table. So perhaps, the PORT should chip into the more costly alternative of a Carlsborg sewage treatment center or just have the county back off from what was opposed by most of the locals.

    I do NOT want Carlsborg sewage pressure sent over the Dungeness River. What is in Carlsborg should stay in Carlsborg.

    Somewhere the planning departments and the CDC messed up badly. Time to elect new blood to replace the old manure.

  5. Herbert Senft

    Recently I had a chance to meet with Mary Ellen Winborn and her husband. Sadly I was in poor health but I invited them to put up a sign on my property.

    I was totally mesmerized by the intensity of her commitment and after a long talk I am more than convinced that she is the person for the job. Architects of the ‘old school’ had to learn how to draft from the bottom up. Foundations, footings and all that. Good contractor’s would appreciate those precise and predictable plans. Something they often do not get.

    The architect would also plan for the electrical, gas connections and the infrastructure of the project. We have forgotten those basic principals. A good architect also has to work with the client and do the best for them. Since they are paying for the job, their needs must be listened to.

    The present DCD seems to have forgotten that premise, (read) the constituent. Incinerator programs, Sea walls (to prevent garbage outflow) and other wasteful programs have been embraced under the present board.

    I look forward to a debate between her and Shelia Roark Miller. Being home bred is not always an advantage. I will take a resourceful (22 years here) and successful business woman any time of the day.

    BTW – while putting up the (TWO) signs now, she engaged three local Sequimites who stopped to ask her questions.
    That is the person we need to lead this county forward. Please do NOT forget that in 2016 a review of the comprehensive plan will take place. The DCD may well be an important balance we need in this undeniably beautiful county of ours.


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