Jensen looks back at eight years as mayor

Library, police station, community center among cherished accomplishments

By Brent Lindquist
[email protected]

Picture 19 FERNDALE — Gary Jensen still vividly remembers his first day as mayor in January 2008.
  “I brought all the employees in for a meeting and everything. I think they kind of wondered, ‘What am I getting with this guy?’” Jensen said.
  His predecessor had kicked off his term by firing a number of city employees, and Jensen said he wanted to let everyone know that he wouldn’t be starting off with a round of firings.
  “I said, ‘It’ll take me at least six months to even know what all of you do,’” he said.
  Jensen explained his philosophy, which he describes as Pete Carroll-esque. He’s not a heavy management person, he said, and he intended to run the city as a team effort.
  Jensen said his proudest accomplishment is helping to get “the big three” built: the new Ferndale library, police station and community center.
  “We had to increase our bonding capacity,” he said. “We said, ‘We need to make some pretty big moves here. We’re going to have to borrow some money.’ That was brave, that we did those big three projects. We were brave enough to try something. I think that’s benefitted Ferndale if you look back on it.”
  While he accomplished his “big three,” there are a few goals that Jensen was not able to tackle during his eight years as mayor.
  One of these goals was increasing the retail presence in Ferndale.
  “We tried hard to get Costco, and that didn’t work out,” Jensen said. “We hope that there’s retail off Labounty in the future. Ferndale needs that sales tax to kind of make that next step to improve parks and improve facilities that people want.”
  Jensen said he hopes that Ferndale can bring in more retail in the future, because there are people in town who need to make purchases, but many of them do so in Bellingham or online.
  Jensen said it still hurts to think about some of the water issues faced by Ferndale during his terms as mayor.
  At one point, Ferndale switched to using well water because it was in danger of losing its water rights.
  “A consultant said it would work, the water won’t be hard, and it won’t wreck people’s plumbing,” Jensen said.
  That consultant was incorrect, and once the city began drawing more water from its wells, the water turned hard and tasted terrible.
  “Woods and Mug Shots had to buy new filter equipment,” Jensen said. “We ended up costing businesses and consumers money.”
  Jensen said some people blamed him for somehow doing this on purpose, citing his ownership of Sullivan Plumbing as a possible motive.
  “That one hurt,” he said. “You never do anything like that on purpose. I still feel bad about that. For a while, we hurt people’s water.”
  Now that he’s finished with his time as mayor, Jensen is looking ahead. He’s a big proponent of volunteer work, and he plans to take a year before he jumps back in and decides which group he will donate the majority of his time to.
  He’s also in the process of selling a percentage of Sullivan Plumbing to an employee.
  Beyond those aspirations, Jensen hopes to get back to some of the activities he hasn’t taken part in since becoming the mayor.
  “I haven’t ridden my motorcycle, I haven’t gone on too many hikes, and I haven’t taken many vacations,” Jensen said. “There are parts of the world that I want to see.”