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Auditor, state rep. posts up for grabs

The processes of finding a new auditor for Island County and new state representative for the 10th Legislative District are nearing conclusion.

Republican Party leaders have set meetings for this week to publicly interview the candidates and make recommendations to county commissioners, who will make the final decisions.

The Island County Auditor position became available when Suzanne Sinclair resigned to take a job in New York State.

Candidates to replace her are Art Hyland, who held the auditor position in the 1990s; Eric Gerber, an Oak Harbor City Council member; and Susan Engstrom, an Island County employee since 1995 who presently manages the Permit Center on Camano Island.

The public can view the interview process Saturday, Jan. 5, in Conference Rooms A and B at Whidbey General Hospital, beginning at 11 a.m.

Kathy Jones, Island County Republican Party chair, said the public can watch the proceedings but can’t speak as the candidates are questioned by precinct committee persons. After the interviews, the three candidates will likely be listed in order of preference and the recommendation forwarded to the Island County commissioners.

“It will be my recommendation that we prioritize them,” Jones said. Still, the commissioners can choose whichever candidate they want. The date for the commissioners’ public interviews has not been set.

Opening the county Republican Party interview process to the public is a change for Jones, who initially said the process would be just for the precinct committee persons. She said Thursday she had only been on the job for a short time when she made that decision, and that she was just following prior policy. “But many said ‘open it to the public’,” she said, so she followed that advice. “If the public wants to come and observe us they are welcome.” As many as 54 precinct committee persons could be present.

Meanwhile, a broader process is under way to replace Republican State Rep. Chris Strow of Freeland, who resigned to take another job and be closer to his family. Selecting his replacement involves the Republican parties from three counties: Island, Snohomish and Skagit.

Candidates include Norma Smith of Clinton, the former aide to the late Congressman Jack Metcalf and one-time candidate for U.S. Congress; as well as Claire Eberle of La Conner and Joel Edmonds of Stanwood. Another announced candidate, John Barnes, has dropped out.

The three candidates will be interviewed by precinct committee persons on Thursday, Jan. 3, at 7 p.m. at the Skagit County Republican Party headquarters, 224 Stewart Road, Mount Vernon, Suite 200. Again, the public is invited to observe.

Jones said votes can be cast by 22 precinct committee persons from Snohomish County, 12 from Skagit County and 11 from Island County. The ranked results will be forwarded Jan. 4 to the Washington State Republican Party executive board where officials will “vet” the names to make sure they are qualified to serve in the 10th District.

The state party will then forward the names to a panel of commissioners from the three counties, who will decide who replaces Strow. Details of that meeting have not been set. “We’re still trying to coordinate all their schedules,” Jones said.

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