Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 24, 2013

An Interview with Bill Knutzen

Recently, I sat down with Bill Knutzen, the affable yet stalwart conservative on the Whatcom County Council. He spoke at the Freedom Academy training I attended and after a few moments of reminiscing about the fun times there, we jumped right into the interview.

Bill Knutzen2

Bill Knutzen – Photo by Dave Onkles

I started with the obvious, why are you running for reelection? “Because I’m a sadist. Is that the right term? I’m not really into that,” he chuckles. “But seriously, agriculture was the reason I ran four years ago and it is the reason I’m running today.” He talked about his time growing up on a farm and how things have changed. “More and more, it is difficult for farmers to be farmers. We need to make sure that farmers have water rights and water quality.”

He blames government bureaucracy for the challenges that farmers face. “There are a lot of different agencies that think they are the governing body on water. Now, I like the work that the Conservation District has done; they’ve done a good job of working with the farmers so there isn’t this heavy hand of government.”

Naturally, the big issue casting a long black shadow over this race is the potential terminal at Cherry Point. I asked him his take on the issue. “I have been trying to avoid that issue at all costs!” He mentioned that the council had been advised (poorly, in my opinion) not to discuss the project and he is holding to that.

Another key issue this year is the construction of a new jail. In light of plummeting crime rates and the recent legalization of marijuana, do we really need a giant 700 bed jail the Sheriff is proposing, or a more reasonable 500 bed jail? “Like most things, you are going to meet some place in the middle. I just want to make sure that the construction is something we can afford.” He also pointed out we can reduce the burden on our jail system by supporting mental health services. “Whatcom has been pretty proactive about mental health services, and I’d like to see that continue.”

What about protecting Lake Whatcom? Knutzen believes the key is more cooperation. “The county has done a good job dealing with developers around the lake.” However, he has some strong words about the Reconveyance. “It is a crapshoot! The cost for those trails is going to be way higher; there were a lot of misconceptions about that deal.” I asked him if he believed the Whatcom Excavator-pushed conspiracy theories about the Reconveyance. He paused, “I was upset by some of those emails that came out. I’m just going to leave it at that.”

I asked him about the changing of the guard at the city and county level. “With Jack (Louws), I haven’t seen a ton of change.” He noted that Dewey Dessler, Pete Kremen’s former right hand man, is still there, deeply involved in county business. But he looks forward to seeing some improvements in the permit process. On the city level, he described Mayor Linville as “a refreshing change, to say the least. Kelli always returns my calls, and that didn’t used to happen.”

The other issue that got Knutzen fired up was the continued fight over the Growth Management Act. “We should have taken the original act to court. You know that there are property owners on the Guide that bought land and now can’t run their businesses because now the state has decided it is rural land. It is wrong and a taking!”

I asked if he is concerned about the mounting cost to the county because of their lawbreaking. “I’m more concerned about the cost to the people than to the county!”

Issues aside, Knutzen is bracing himself for another tough election cycle. Rud Browne, local entrepreneur and environmentalist recently held a high-profile kickoff. Knutzen, on the other hand, has yet to hire a campaign manager. “Will this election be tough? They are all tough, especially if I have a primary. I thought the last one was tough, but I’m proud of my record and in the end, it is up to the voters.”

As we wrapped up our interview, he mentioned that he approaches his role on the County Council using “H.A.T.” Seeing my confused expression, he explains, “Humble, Accountable and True to my principles.” He gives me a big Knutzen grin and saunters off toward the County Courthouse.

I plan to interview all the candidates for public office this year, you can find my previous interviews here



  1. “There’s an old saying in Tennessee… er, I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee …um, that says, fool me once, shame on…? …shame on you? …Fool me …hmm. …well, you can’t get fooled again.”

    I believe the word he may have meant was massochist (a person who seeks out discomfort, such as a candidate for public office is knowingly inviting scrutiny and flack). A sadist is someone who likes to inflict discomfort on others (such as a politician who runs just to cause havoc, such as Bob Burr)

  2. Thanks Riley, for pushing on a Right Size Jail. I would love to hear them say why they need to go to the expense of taking it out into the county, rather than using land they already own here in town.

  3. There was never a more perfect Freudian Slip than Mr. Knutzen confessing to his enjoyment of inflicting pain on his constituents.
    I wonder how many other nouns he believes he embodies only backwards.
    Is the right-wing spin machine gearing-up to take full advantage of the candidate’s support among voters who also can’t define words properly?
    They’re Taking Your Land!
    It certainly worked well for him last time.

  4. […] County Council, At Large: Again, nothing new here. Local entrepreneur Rud Browne squares off against current councilman Bill Knutzen. […]

  5. […] asked about where he and his opponent, Bill Knutzen, he answers without hesitation. “Experience – this county does a great deal of […]

  6. […] What about Bill Knutzen, you say? While I disagreed with him about many issues (here for a start), he was always pleasant, positive and friendly. Also, he was by far one of the funniest council members. You can read my interview with him here. […]

  7. […] Knutzen and Van Werven have large policy differences? Doubtful. You can read my interview with Knutzen here, and this exchange over marriage equality from last year shows how he approaches social […]

  8. […] when I am sharing insight into one specific person, I always try and get a good picture (see Bill Knutzen, Kathy Kershner, and Ken Bell for some conservative examples). My goal is never to make someone […]

  9. […] Following up on my examination of Sen. Doug Ericksen’s fundraising on Thursday, I took a closer look at the Republicans running for the 42nd legislative district. Luanne Van Werven, former Republican state party chair, is running against former county councilman Bill Knutzen. […]

  10. […] too generous to him, my interviews tend to be rather gracious profiles, no matter the subject (see Bill Knutzen, Kathy Kershner, Ken Bell, Kelli […]

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