Emerson disruption highlights tension between commissioners

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson irritated her fellow commissioners by walking out of a meeting prematurely.  - File photo/Whidbey News-Times
Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson irritated her fellow commissioners by walking out of a meeting prematurely.
— image credit: File photo/Whidbey News-Times

Commissioner Kelly Emerson prematurely packed up and left a meeting of the board Monday night, clearly annoying the chairwoman.

The incident is the latest in a series of disruptions showing a visibly-strained relationship between the commissioner from Camano Island and her fellow board members.

During an interview Tuesday, Emerson said she didn’t think she was being rude — and didn’t intend to be disrespectful —but that her colleague’s reaction isn’t anything new.

“They are always annoyed at me,” she said.

“I think we have a different perspective of these meetings.”

Commissioner Jill Johnson, a District 2 Republican, and Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, a District 1 Democrat, voted two weeks ago to strip Emerson of her title as chairwoman after she defied the board majority by sending out special meeting notices and attending public meetings outside her district.

Emerson called the decision “ludicrous.”

Johnson was elected to serve as the new chairwoman in a 2-0 vote, with Emerson abstaining.

On Monday, the commissioners attended their once-a-month night meeting.

Price Johnson was attending the National Association of Counties conference in Texas, but participated in the meeting via speakerphone.

As is typical, the meeting wrapped up with a commissioner comment period — typically the portion of the meeting when the commissioners talk about their activities on committees and in community events.

Emerson said she had nothing to say, stood up and started packing while Price Johnson was delivering her comments. That prompted Johnson to ask Emerson if she should announce that she’s leaving.

Emerson agreed that she should.

Johnson then started discussing the county’s audit and several community events she attended in recent days. Emerson got up and left in the middle of that presentation.

“For the record, I would like to announce Commissioner Emerson’s departure before the end of the meeting,” Johnson said.

Emerson then went into the audience to sit with a friend.

On Tuesday, Emerson explained that she had just returned from Texas, where she also attended the National Association of Counties conference. She is on the Public Lands committee, the Rural Area Caucus and Veterans and Military Service committee.

Emerson said she flew back just so there would be a quorum for the commissioners’ night meeting.

Emerson said she stepped down from the commissioners’ table because she had nothing more to add at the meeting and has a personal life that needs attention.

“I place a little higher value on time than they do,” Emerson said.


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