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Western professor running for Whatcom County Council

Western professor Todd Donovan is running for Whatcom County Council. // Photo by Christina Becker
Todd Donovan, a Western political science professor, announced plans to enter the race for the Whatcom County Council District 1 seat soon to be vacated by current councilmember Pete Kremen. Donovan has been teaching at Western since 1991, and received his Ph.D. in political science from University of California, Riverside. He is currently serving on the Whatcom County Charter Review Commission, a group of 15 people elected to review the county charter every 10 years. With that work scheduled to be complete in a month, Donovan has set his sights on the County Council seat. Q. What led you to decide to run for County Council? A. It is a great opportunity to move our county forward. There are major planning issues that are going on. Lake Whatcom, our drinking source, needs attention. We need to plan for jobs for the 21st century and I think we need to do that right now, think where we want to be in 20 years. There are people also running for this position who are reliving some battles that we’ve moved on from, and I want to move forward. Q. Can you talk about your experience as part of the Whatcom County Charter Review Commission? A. It’s the first time I’ve been in an elected body and I’m really enjoying it. Even though I’m with the progressives in the minority on that Commission, it’s great to be listening to people with different ideas and learning from them and I’m really looking forward to taking that experience to the County Council. Q. Being the minority on that Commission, is that reflective of how it will look on the County Council? A. It will be different on the County Council, which is why I see this as a great opportunity. I think we have some really good people on the County Council right now, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with them. It would be different; I would be working with people that are on page with me in terms of some of the things I’m thinking about. It doesn’t really matter who the majority is. I think what I can bring is my ability to listen, compromise and be pragmatic. Being on the charter council has really helped me learn about that. Q. What would your goals be as a County Council member? A. Our long-range comprehensive plan is up for debate. That’s where we make decisions about how we’re going to grow in terms of new jobs, and that’s a great opportunity. Q. How does an academic career translate into a political one? What’s the difference between teaching political science and actually being a part of the process? A. In terms of teaching anything, you have to be informed and objective. I [teach] my classes [without] letting my personal opinions be a part of what I’m teaching. I think that’s a skill that I’ll be able to bring to County Council, as much as there’s something I’d like or want, I have to learn and listen to people and figure things out. So in terms of the political science part of it, I’ll have to figure that out. It will definitely be interesting. Q. Whatcom is a complicated political landscape with some of the most liberal areas in the state and some of the most conservative. Where are you on that spectrum, and how do you hope to reconcile those political divisions? A. I’ve always considered myself liberal, but I believe all of us, whether we’re called liberal or conservative, have a lot more in common than [what] maybe comes out on the media when they cover public meetings and stuff. We agree on a lot more things than we disagree on. That’s one thing that I’ve learned from the council charter experience. It doesn’t really matter who has a majority on the council. I represent the entire county, I don’t just represent the local part of Bellingham if I get elected. Q. Do you have long-term ambitions beyond County Council? A. Oh no. I’m surprised I’m doing this. I’m looking forward to it, but that will be the end of it. Students interested in being a part of Donovan’s campaign can send an email to

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