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
- 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 earned a reputation for thumbing its
nose at environmental concerns and shutting down dissenting voices.
- The City had recently signed a 30-year agreement to sell five 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, achieved 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 concluded in July 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 defunct 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 real opportunities for effective participation.
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 advocated for the municipal fiber network that Anacortes is now building 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 Council'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. Most recently, Ryan led the way to the City's exercise of its authority under SHB1406 to retain
a portion of the state sales tax and pursuit of voter approval for a small increase in the sales tax to fund affordable housing projects in Anacortes.
- 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.
- Stormwater. Ryan helped draft the City's implementation of the State Department of Ecology's 2013 Stormwater Permit, with changes effective January 1, 2017. Recently, he helped
launch a city program to treat stormwater through residential raingardens by installing one of the first in front of his house, with help from the Anacortes High School Green Club.
- 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.
Our work is far from finished.
- Capital Facilities Planning. Ryan has been a consistent advocate of quality financial planning for capital facilities and infrastructure. Ryan has written articles for the Atown
magazine both this year and in 2015 about this important need.
In the wake of the bike park proposal on the A Avenue dump site, Ryan has been working with the Council Finance Committee
to craft an ordinance that would establish a process for City Council review of capital projects before they get too far along.
- Affordable Housing. While we've come a very long way in laying the groundwork for affordable housing through the Comprehensive Plan and development code update, some projects will
need extra support, and careful attention
must be paid to ensure that new projects are compatible with our community.
- Capital Projects. The City has a number of good ideas for great new community amenities, but has stumbled implementing some of them. The proposed teen center, completion of
the Guemes Channel Trail, the bike skills park, and a new city hall building would all greatly benefit our city, but it's important that we do them right. Ryan has been leading the
way to effective and rational oversight of these projects, and will continue work to speed up the rate of progress toward actual construction.