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Expiring Island County clerk, deputy go for more training

Island County Clerk Patricia Terry will be out of a job by the end of November.

Terry didn’t make it through the primary election and was originally appointed to the position, so her replacement will take over as soon as the election is certified.

Still, Terry plans on going to a three-day conference for the Washington Association of County Officials in Cle Elum in October. The purpose of the conference, according to the group’s website, is to provide a forum where county officials can share ideas, discuss legislative issues and receive training.

Terry said she is also sending her chief deputy clerk to court administration training in Olympia this fall, despite the fact that the chief deputy may also be out of a job soon.

Deputy Clerk Debra Van Pelt, who’s on the ballot to replace Terry, is concerned about the impact the conference and training will have on the budget. Like all county offices, the clerk’s budget has been significantly cut over the last couple of years. The small office is facing another 5 percent cut next year.

Van Pelt said the conference and training are unnecessary expenditures, given that Terry will soon be gone. And she points out that the office is already understaffed and can’t spare people, especially with a new person who has to be trained.

“She’ll make it harder for us to deal with the budget when she’s gone if she uses money in a way that I feel is unwise,” Van Pelt said in a phone interview.

Van Pelt said she doesn’t plan to keep the current chief deputy if she wins the election. It’s common practice for incoming elected officials to choose their own second-in-command. Van Pelt, a Democrat, is facing Republican Carol Ann Fortune in the election.

Yet Terry defends her plans. She said she hasn’t decided if she will ask the county to reimburse her for her mileage to the conference. She said she plans to pick up the tab on all the other expenses.

Terry said she felt she should go to keep up to date on legislation and other issues that could affect the office; then she can pass the information on to the new clerk.

“I feel like it’s a continuity issue,” she said.

Besides, Terry said she’s donated $3,000 of her own salary to the office this year. She said the money was for education, travel and other things that the budget couldn’t support.

In addition, Terry said it isn’t certain that the chief deputy will be replaced. Terry said she’s proceeding as if the chief deputy will remain and the training is important. She didn’t say what the cost will be to the office.

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