City of Anacortes

As a City Councilmember and fifth-generation resident of Anacortes, Ryan Walters has led the way to transparency, long-term financial security, and professional land use planning.

Motivated to Solve Problems

When Ryan took office in 2012, the City was burdened by years of mismanagement. Many residents didn't realize the depth and breadth of the problems, most of which were hidden or defended by the longtime administration and incumbent city councilmembers:

  • The City had built up a $60 million backlog of deferred street maintenance, and its equipment rental fund had a million-dollar deficit.
  • The water utility had no money in reserve, despite pressing needs like replacement of the three-million-gallon water tank on Whistle Lake Road.
  • The development code was replete with inconsistencies and internal conflicts, and allowed inappropriate business development in the middle of residential neighborhoods.
  • The City had built a reputation for thumbing its nose at environmental concerns and shutting down dissenting voices.
  • The City had recently signed a fifty-year agreement to sell a million gallons a day of Skagit River water to a bottling company that had never before built a water-bottling plant.

Ryan's presence on the City Council immediately started to shine a light on these problems. Two years after his election, voters turned out the longtime mayor and several city councilmembers in favor of a fresh approach and commitment to transparency and accountability.

Leveraging Skills and Experience

The business of the City is executed through documents--contracts, resolutions, ordinances, and budgets. Ryan has leveraged his skills as a government attorney and land use professional to improve the City's code and processes.

  • Land Use Procedures. After the City's multi-year rewrite of its land use procedures was abandoned, Ryan proposed an outline for a new Unified Development Code, got buy-in from staff and council, and then drafted new procedures in plain language using tables and checklists. A speedy adoption in late 2016 set the stage for a complete rewrite of the substantive provisions of the land use code, which will conclude in 2019.
  • Stormwater Code Update. Ryan drafted updates to the City's stormwater code and clearing and grading codes to improve management of stormwater and ensure compliance with state and federal clean water rules.
  • Civil Enforcement Code. In response to complaints from Anacortes residents about ineffective nuisance enforcement, and complaints from city staff about ineffective enforcement code provisions, Ryan worked with the new City Attorney to draft a new unified civil enforcement code chapter that provides tools and processes for enforcement of all kinds of civil code violations.
  • Contracts. Ryan wrote and sheperded to adoption an ordinance for management of city contracts, now codified at Anacortes Municipal Code Chapter 1.30, which formalizes and restricts the City Council's delegation of authority to contract to the mayor. Before the ordinance, the mayor's signature authority was unclear and impermissibly broad, and financial and legal review of contracts was not required--leading to debacles likes the Tethys water bottling contract.
  • Rules of Procedure. The rules under which the City Council operates are key to ensuring democracy works—that new councilmembers can find their voice and effect change. After a change in the administration and turnover on the City Council, Ryan drafted and led adoption of new rules that return the City Council to a standard way of doing business that ensures the public has effective participation.

Accomplishments

Ryan ran on a platform of protection for residential neighborhoods from incompatible conditional uses, invigoration of the City's downtown, and improving communication for better government.

  • 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update. Comprehensive Plans are required by state law, and updates are required every decade. When Ryan took office, the City administration was intending to do a perfunctory update of the City's 20-page, ineffective plan. Ryan argued for a complete overhaul, which was endorsed by the new administration. After many public forums, visioning sessions, and workshops, the City Council adopted a completely new Comprehensive Plan in 2016 that sets the stage for the next 20 years in Anacortes.
  • Municipal Fiber. A member of the City Council's fiber committee, Ryan has strongly advocated for a municipal fiber network to serve residents and businesses throughout the city, while insisting on a serious business plan to ensure the network pays for itself and doesn't burden taxpayers who don't participate.
  • Affordable Housing. As mayor pro-tem, Ryan established and appointed the City's first Housing Affordability and Community Services committee and has been a leading advocate for new development regulations to support appropriate density and new affordable housing development.
  • Transparency. Ryan led the way to the City's purchase of the Laserfiche document management system, which includes a portal for direct public access to the City's documents, and digital workflow technology to enforce oversight processes on city contracts, resolutions, and ordinances.
  • Tourism Strategic Planning. As chair of the City's Lodging Tourism Advisory Committee (LTAC), Ryan drafted a strategic plan for tourism promotion, adopted by LTAC and the City Council, that provides guidance to LTAC in making its funding decisions and creates a strategic capital reserve for future one-time expenditures to benefit Anacortes tourism.

Relevant Certifications

  • Certificate of Municipal Leadership, Anacortes of Washington Cities
  • American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), American Planning Association

Education

  • Juris Doctorate
    University of California—Davis
  • Bachelor of Arts
    University of Rochester
    Political Science, French

Memberships

  • American Institute of Certified Planners
  • American Planning Association
  • Skagit County Bar Association
  • Washington State Bar Association

Lived In

  • Anacortes, Washington
  • Davis, California
  • Rochester, New York
  • Washington, DC

Awards

  • Association of Washington Cities Certificate of Municipal Leadership, 2015
  • Skagit Land Trust Community Engagement Volunteer of the Year, 2015
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copyright © 2019 Ryan Walters