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Bakke jumps on board

Only tumbleweeds blew through the halls of the county courthouse Monday afternoon. Newly appointed Commissioner Phil Bakke was being sworn in and it was the hottest ticket in town.

Judges Alan Hancock and Vickie Churchill held court at noon to administer the oath of office to whom Hancock referred to as “a splendid young gentleman.” Bakke was appointed to the District 1 position last Wednesday by Commissioners Mac McDowell and John Dean to replace Mike Shelton.

“Phil has emerged from a strong field as the appointee of Commissioners McDowell and Dean to replace Commissioner Shelton,” Hancock said. “And goodness knows he has big shoes to fill.”

At 36, Bakke is already a seasoned veteran in Coupeville, having worked 12 years for the county. He vied for the commissioner position in a pool of three Republican candidates that, in addition to himself, included Auditor Suzanne Sinclair and real estate professional Reece Rose. Sinclair, along with what looked like half of the county’s employees, was in the audience Monday to wish Bakke well in his new political endeavor.

Hancock said he and the former planning director share “a love of learning.” Both men attended Western Washington University and completed graduate studies at the University of Washington. Albeit at different times, Hancock reluctantly pointed out.

“Interestingly enough, at Western we both had a fascinating man by the name of Tom Downing for a philosophy professor. Oh, all right it was 30 years apart,” the judge quipped.

The Superior Court judge was quick to heap praise on the new commissioner and remind Bakke of his new responsibility and accountability to Island County citizens.

“In any event, Phil, you have all the tools to step into this awesome responsibility, and it is our confident expectation that you will faithfully serve as county commissioner with courage, wisdom and foresight, always remembering that you are called to serve the public to which you are accountable,” he said.

Trading his jeans and tennis shoes for a suit and tie, Bakke expressed his gratitude to the throng of supporters who used their lunch to witness the swearing in ceremony.

“It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “I’m humbled by the confidence and respect that I’ve received from the community.”

He went on to applaud the high caliber candidates he interviewed alongside during the appointment process and made it clear that his baptism will be of the fiery ilk.

“I think this will be one of the shortest honeymoon periods ever known,” Bakke said with a laugh. “I know everyone will be patient and work with me and I want to work with you all to try and make a difference for Island County.”

After taking taking the oath of office and signing the requisite papers, the courtroom exploded in applause and the new commissioner addressed the crowd with a grin.

Monday was Bakke’s first day on the job. Battling jitters as he began to view county intricacies from a different perspective, the former planning director was honored to play a part in promoting his longtime second-in-command, Jeff Tate.

“One of my first actions this morning was to make a motion to appoint Jeff planning director,” he said. “That was pretty neat.”

Tate was appointed temporary director last Thursday. The commissioners unanimously voted to install him permanently in the position Monday.

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