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Bakke seeks county seat

Phil Bakke, Island County’s director of planning and community development, has joined the ranks of Republicans hopeful to replace Mike Shelton on the Board of Island County Commissioners.

Shelton announced Monday he is resigning effective Sept. 1 after 15 years on the job to take a position in Olympia with the Washington Counties Insurance Fund.

Not long after, candidates to replace Shelton in the county triumvirate started to pop up. State Rep. Chris Strow announced he will seek the position, as did county Auditor Suzanne Sinclair and Reece Rose, a former candidate for commissioner. On Thursday, Bakke announced he is joining the fray.

All are Republicans, as Shelton is a Republican. The Island County Republican Party will submit the names of three candidates for the remaining two commissioners, Republican Mac McDowell and Democrat John Dean, to choose from. The person selected will have to run for election in 2008 to keep the job.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking and finally decided to throw my hat in the ring,” said Bakke, who turns 37 in October. “The commissioners have a policy role and an executive leadership role. I’m interested in bringing stuff from planning to the wider county family.” He prides himself on the wider community involvement he says he’s brought to the planning process.

Bakke is considerably younger than the other announced candidates, describing himself as “the next generation” in Island County politics. Despite his relative youth he’s got 12 years of experience working for the county, the last eight as planning director. He graduated from South Whidbey High School and Western Washington University and is working on a master’s degree from the University of Washington.

“I’m doing this for the challenge,” Bakke said of his aspirations to be a commissioner. “It’s time for a bigger challenger.”

The Island County Republican Central Committee met Thursday night on Camano Island to begin the process of coming up with three finalists to send on to the commissioners.

De Dennis, chairman of the Central Committee, couldn’t be reached Friday for comment. But Mary Jane Aurdal, a Clinton resident long active in county Republican politics, was present. She said about 25 people attended, including several of the announced candidates.

“De (Dennis) came up with a great strategy,” Aurdal said. The plan is to set a deadline to take applications, then have the Executive Committee “select the ones best qualified,” and send those names on to the Central Committee to be pruned to three finalists.

The process will give active Republicans several changes to meet the candidates at various locations in the county. “It’s going to be a lot of work,” Aurdal said. The aim is to produce the three finalists early in September.

Applications for the position can be sent to the Island County GOP, 390 NE Midway Blvd., #A103, Oak Harbor, WA 98277.

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