Process goes public soon

The public will finally have a chance to size up the four applicants vying for Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton’s soon-to-be vacated seat on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

The Island County Republican Party will host a public reception that evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m at party headquarters located at 390 NE Midway Blvd. A103 in Oak Harbor.

State Rep. Chris Strow, county Auditor Suzanne Sinclair, county Planning Director Phil Bakke, and former commissioner candidate Reece Rose comprise the group of prospective appointees to the District 1 position. Each of the applicants has agreed to attend the reception.

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 the following 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 selected by the Island County Republican Party’s executive board.

Three invitation-only regional gatherings, during which the voting members of the Island County Republican Party central committee and the applicants met, wrapped up this week.

The process up to this point has been criticized by some people for its secrecy and exclusivity. Shelton has been opposed to it since the local Republican Party announced its methods. As a precinct committee officer, the commissioner attended the first private meeting last week on South Whidbey. A handful of people attended, in addition to three of the candidates. Strow was not present.

“I told them at the meeting I thought it a huge mistake to make the meetings inclusive of only the PCOs (precinct committee officers) and that excluding the press was a huge mistake,” he said. “The people who put the process together defended it, so there is a legitimate difference of opinion.”

The process up to now has just been preliminary, said Commissioner McDowell, intended to whittle down the group of four Republican candidates to three. When the commissioners are given the three names on Aug. 31, their job begins.

“Our process will be public,” McDowell said. “The public will be welcome to sit in and hear the questions and answers.”

Each candidate will be interviewed separately, while the other two will be asked to leave and remain out of earshot until their turn. A closed executive session will follow and if Dean and McDowell reach an agreement, a motion will be made in public and the county will officially have a new commissioner.

The commissioners have 60 days to defer a deadlocked decision to the governor. Delaying the process, however, does not appeal to the two elected officials.

“The very next week the budget process begins,” McDowell said. “I’d much rather have a third person in here hearing all of those presentations.”

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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