News

How will Shelton be replaced?

By JIM LARSEN

News-Times editor

The deadline to throw your hat in the ring to become the next Island County commissioner is Friday, August 3, at 6 p.m.

To date, four candidates have expressed interest in replacing veteran Commissioner Mike Shelton, who announced July 16 he will step down effective Sept. 1 to take a job in Olympia.

Among those seeking his job are county Auditor Suzannne Sinclair, Planning Director Phil Bakke, State Rep. Chris Strow, and Reece Rose, a former candidate for commissioner.

Since Shelton is a Republican, his replacement will have to be a Republican. Candidates must also live in District 1, which encompasses all of South and Central Whidbey Island.

The vacancy announcement on the Republican Web site says candidates "must have excellent organizational and interpersonal communication skills. The desired candidate must also have the leadership skills and management experience to conduct the county’s day-to-day business fairly and in an unbiased manner."

Anyone interested should submit a resume with cover letter detailing Republican Party involvement to: The Island County Republican Party, 390 NE Midway Blvd., #A103, Oak Harbor, WA 98277.

For details call 279-1197 or visit islandcountygop.org.

The precise process that candidates will undergo has not yet been announced by the party. De Dennis, Island County Republican Central Committee chairman, told the News-Times Friday that the process might include "coffees at people's homes," where party leaders would ascertain of the candidates, "Are they true Republicans . . . and we'd ask them some pointed questions."

Members of the party leadership met Friday in Oak Harbor to discuss the process, but were still working on it early this week.

Whether members of the public could attend those coffees is unclear. Dennis did say meetings would be scheduled to allow the public to meet the candidates.

Mike Shelton told the News-Times last week that he favors an "open process" in selecting his successor, and the idea of holding various meetings around the county didn't appeal to him, particularly if they are "by invitation," as a party news release suggested.

"I don't know what the advantages are of holding meetings around the county and making it by invitation only," Shelton said. "It doesn't matter who's there. I was kind of taken aback by the process . . . it doesn't do anyone any good to exclude people from the process."

But Dennis has yet to confirm if anyone will be excluded.

Mary Jane Aurdal, another Republican Central Committee member, said Tuesday morning she had just received an e-mail asking for input into the process.

In 1987, the last time there was a vacancy on the board of commissioners, the Republican party interviewed 15 candidates at the courthouse in front of anyone who wanted to attend.

Shelton noted that the person picked to replace him "is going to be the commissioner of the Republicans and Democrats alike."

The tentative schedule released by Dennis states that after the candidate interviews, the dates of which have not been announced, there will be a special meeting of the Central Committee Aug. 30 in Oak Harbor to winnow the field to three finalists. Those names will be delivered to the county commissioners the next day.

Commissioners Mac McDowell, a Republican, and John Dean, a Democrat, will interview the finalists in public, but probably will retire to executive session to discuss which one to select. If they can't agree, the governor would decide.

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