Jean Melious is an associate professor of environmental studies at Western and chair of the county planning commission. Photo courtesy of the Jean Melious campaign.

Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review

For the past eight months, Associate Professor Jean Melious took on a new role in her life: politician. Since announcing her candidacy for Whatcom County Council in April of last year, Melious has been balancing grading papers and being a mother, while campaigning and fighting for the issues she felt most passionate about. Her campaign came to an end on Nov. 2, when it was announced that she lost to conservative businessman Tony Larsen by 57 to 43 percent of the votes. We sat down with Melious to learn about her experiences on the campaign trail and what she has in store for the future.

The AS Review: What was the campaign experience like?
Jean Melious: It was a big part of my life the last few months. We decided I would run in April and things have been pretty busy since then. I had never run for office before, so when I started out I really wasn’t clear on all the pieces involved from what kind of signs you get, and then you decide whether or not they’re going to be on metal or wood or all those silly things. A lot of it was fun and I met a lot of interesting people and made some new friends and went some places I had never been before.

Review: What was your inspiration for running?
Melious: I’ve been involved in the county as a chair of the Planning Commission for the past few years so I was pretty familiar with county issues. It’s something I always thought about someday in the future, I still have a daughter at home. But somebody needed to run for this seat, it’s an important position. My husband and I talked about it, because it is very much a communal event, and we said, “Well we can sit at home and complain about them and what’s going on, or we can try to do something about it.”

Review: How was the role of students in all of this?
Melious: My deputy campaign manager was here, Rebekah Hook. She is going to run the world someday. She helped run the campaign and she helped us have a significant presence at Western. She had friends who worked for me; she had an acquaintance who became the president of Students for Jean Melious. Our indications are from the preliminary data that we’ve looked at, without all the votes being in, it looks like I did really well in the precincts around Western. My students kept my morale up and being here was good in a lot of respects.

Review: How was balancing school and this campaign?
Melious: It was easier to campaign in some ways because I have taught. I am pretty used to dealing with groups, speaking with all sorts of different people. I’m pretty used to being happy no matter how tired I may be, or how long of a day it might have been, so some of those skills and experiences are transferable.

Review: What do you hope the County Council will accomplish this year?
Melious: I hope that the County Council will prioritize wisely. The council has limited time and we have very limited resources in terms of money and staff, and I hope that they will focus on doing the people’s work in an order or priority that is good for everyone. That was my criticism of the council, that they had been focusing on issues that benefit a few landowners and not focusing on issues that are good for the county. And realistically, I don’t think that’s going to change. But I wish it would.

Review: Would you ever consider running again?
Melious: I would consider it, but I don’t know if I’d consider [campaigning] again. This was a one year seat I was running for, and someone will be running for it again next year. So there would be a campaign coming up soon, and certainly that’s not sounding too fun right now. But I haven’t been so scarred by the process that I would never ever contemplate running for anything again.

Review: What now?
Melious: I don’t know. We haven’t even looked at all the data from the election, so we’re still in the middle of ending. I’m catching up on my grading and trying to get some writing done. We’ll see.