Chris Strow quits commissioner pool

State Rep. Chris Strow, R-Freeland, has removed his hat from the vacant county commissioner position ring, making his party’s selection process anticlimactic.

Strow was previously in a group of four applicants vying for the District 1 position longtime Commissioner Mike Shelton will vacate at the end of this month. The 10th District representative was accompanied by applicants Auditor Suzanne Sinclair, Planning Director Phil Bakke, and former commissioner candidate Reece Rose.

The Island County Republican Party was tasked by state law with cutting the pool of applicants to three, but Strow’s announcement on Monday makes that a moot point.

Strow said his decision to pull out was a simple one.

“I decided based on the number of calls I was getting and the discussions I’ve had that I could do more for Island County’s 10th District in Olympia,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think I can be more effective down there.”

Helping people deal with government is the representative’s passion, he said.

“I think I’m pretty good at it. I’m sure there have been rumors, but I can say that there are no scandals,” he added with a laugh.

Strow did not attend the first of three regional, private meetings put on by the Republican party because he was unable to open an attachment to an email.

“I didn’t even know they were having one,” he said. “It wasn’t clear to me from the email.”

The process for the two meetings he attended “seemed to be fine,” he said. He didn’t reveal if anything happened during those meetings to make him think of pulling out of the process.

However, the party’s process to narrow down the pool of applicants to three was greatly simplified with Strow’s decision to withdraw.

“I know who the three are now,” County Commissioner John Dean quipped.

The party will reportedly still host a public reception this evening, Aug. 29, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at party headquarters located at 390 NE Midway Blvd. A103 in Oak Harbor.

“I think the process still has to be honored,” said Republican Central Committee member Mary Jane Aurdal Tuesday regarding the scheduled reception. “I haven’t heard anything to the otherwise.”

A flexible format will enable attendees to speak with the applicants and ask questions publicly or privately. Each applicant will also be given the opportunity to introduce themselves and provide what they feel is pertinent information.

A second, separate public meeting will be held next Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 6 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room, to allow commissioners Mac McDowell and John Dean an opportunity to personally and publicly interview the three candidates.

Dean said Strow pulling out does not affect the commissioners’ duty.

“The board was going to get three either way,” he said. “The way I’m going to approach this is like a job interview and I won’t have any preconceived notions about who’s best. I will listen to each answer and then we’ll decide.

“I have to weigh what is best for the District 1 and for the courthouse. Those are my priorities.”

Dean likened the commissioner positions to a three-headed chief executive officer.

“He or she needs to be a good team player,” he said. “We’re looking for the best CEO we can get at this point and then we’ll let the voters decide when the election comes up.”

While the board interviews will be open to the public, time will not allow for questions from the audience. However, questions can be submitted for consideration by mailing the commissioners office at P.O. Box 5000, Coupeville, WA 98239 or emailing it at

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