French Slough Flood Control (FSFC) District

FSFC Commissioner Position #1 Candidacy Statement

My name is Michelle Canfield and my husband and I own the Katahdin sheep farm with the big red barn on Old Snohomish-Monroe Road. I have been diligently attending FSFC Commissioners meetings as a landowner for several years. This year, I was appointed to occupy the unfinished term of Scott Griffin, who needed to resign midterm due to family/personal reasons. State administrative code dictates that the Commissioners appoint a replacement who will serve until the next regular election, which is now. I am running for Position #1, which is to officially fill this Commissioner role until its conclusion in 2020.

The reason I’m running is I have high interest in ensuring good governance of the district; for the sake of our own property, as well as our neighbors’ properties and general good stewardship of the land. The logistics of managing the district are both complex and interesting. It requires a broad understanding of topography and hydrology, engineering, habitat, wildlife and fisheries, the legal landscape and permitting requirements, vendor management, budgeting, cooperation with multiple government and tribal agencies, the business of earth moving, and, of course, agriculture.

Owning one of the last working farms left in our valley, I feel it’s critical to ensure that the district works in the best interest of farmers and land owners, as its first priority, and as it was originally intended. Yet, we must find common ground with special interest groups focused on conservation, and also regulatory agencies. In this way, we can help drive public policy which continues to preserve and protect this fertile ground for its highest and best use, which is agriculture.

I have several professional qualifications that are helpful in this role. I am an Electrical Engineer by education, and spent the first thirteen years of my career designing FDA-regulated medical devices. I’ve since moved into a Program Manager role, where I run multi-million dollar engineering projects and oversee¬† products from cradle-to-grave. My expertise is in engineering process and Lean Six Sigma implementation. I have significant experience in working in a regulated environment and dealing with regulatory agencies. I understand supply chain and vendor management, construction project management, and managing large corporate budgets and staff. Plus, I am a farmer! We produce over one hundred lambs each year, which are sold both into the meat market and as registered seedstock. We also sell eggs and maintain a large garden and orchard.

FSFC is responsible for a large and complex financial situation that includes overseeing immediate costs to run and maintain the district facilities, inter-local agreements with other government entities, as well as future-proofing the district to withstand high-cost flood events. Governing the district requires striking a balance between two main priorities. The first is keeping special tax assessment costs affordable and stable for us land owners. The second is ensuring that the district infrastructure is maintained and improved over time, so that it can best protect our properties from major flood events, and is less vulnerable to catastrophic levee destruction or failure events. We are also focusing on building a financial reserve which will serve us in times of greater need, if our infrastructure does sustain major damage in a flood event. This buffers us from experiencing a painful short-term hike in assessments to pay for major repairs, with the intent of keeping our assessments even and consistent over time.

We know from history that our district was not always well-managed. Past community members perhaps did the best they could when contributing to its governance; but some years, left the levee in a state of disrepair and abuse by adjacent landowners. This introduced risk, which resulted in more than one dike failure,¬† subsequently triggering tremendous taxpayer burden to cover emergency repairs and rebuilding. We don’t want this to happen ever again!¬† Maintaining the levee and pump station is much less expensive than rebuilding them. Thus, not only is it imperative that the Commissioners make sure that yearly maintenance and oversight is happening; we must also ensure that the dike is properly cared for by neighbors in terms of grazing it, mowing it, driving on it, parking things on it, etc. The levee, pump station and network of drainage ditches are an asset we’ve inherited from investment of prior generations, and we have a responsibility to protect and manage that asset to the best of our ability.

Some election years, we’ll see several names tossed onto the ballot for these Commissioner roles. Most of these people have never attended a single Commissioners meeting, and presumably have little knowledge of the governance of the district or the importance of the role, and possibly few skills to offer it. It’s hard to know if they understand the time commitment involved and are prepared to make it. I am committed to the district and have demonstrated that by attending meetings consistently for several years. I aided in making improvements to the pump station to bring in wireless Internet service and bring the station’s electronic data systems online; allowing performance to be remotely monitored. This allows our district manager to more quickly detect when the pumps hit an error condition and shut down, and get them re-started right away. This can make a big difference in the pumps being down, undetected, for hours or days while the ditches fill up and overflow; or¬† keeping those pumps in reliable operation 24/7 in winter, when we rely on them the most. You see, FSFC isn’t just about management for major flood events, it’s about managing our water table and valley drainage day-in, day-out, year-round. Farmers¬† and land owners need FSFC to be well-run by diligent Commissioners.

I respectfully ask neighbors for your vote in the February 2018 special election for my candidacy to fill Position #1 of the FSFC District Board of Commissioners.