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Democrat challenges Sauter for county treasurer

There will be competition this election year in the race for the office of Island County Treasurer.

Linda Riffe, vice principal at Oak Harbor High School, announced Wednesday that she is running for the treasurer’s position.

Riffe is a Democrat, but she said she has already found support from both major parties. In fact, such support prompted her to start thinking about running. “I had people come to me from both parties who started sounding me out,” she said.

Riffe was also interested because of newspaper articles about the treasurer’s office, presently headed by Republican Maxine Sauter. Sauter found herself at odds with the Washington State Auditor’s Office which issued a negative report on some aspects of how the public’s money is handled in Island County. Sauter rejected the criticism, saying her office has never lost a cent during her tenure.

However, Riffe said she studied all the state auditor’s reports and concluded that there is “a lack of internal controls,” in the treasurer’s office, and there should be more “segregation of financial responsibilities.”

Without such improvements, in Riffe’s view, treasurer’s office employees could find themselves liable for errors “no matter how honest they are — it’s wonderful to be trustful but why put your employees in jeopardy?”

What can Riffe bring to the treasurer’s office?

“I can build trust with people and work well with people,” she said.

Riffe has spend the last three years of her 19-year career in education in Oak Harbor. She cites her qualifications as an MA in Education Administration, AAA in Business Administration, BS in Business Education, and her background as director of career and technical education. She has developed and delivered teacher training for computer technology, knowledge she says is needed in the treasurer’s office.

Riffe has some experience dealing with the state auditor’s office. She said she was given the job of reorganizing the high school’s troubled Associated Student Body account. “I was directed to clean up the ASB fund, the handling of student monies,” she said. For the last two years, she added, the state auditor has issued no “findings,” or criticisms, of how the fund is managed.

Running as a Democrat can be difficult in a county dominated by the Republican Party, but Riffe doesn’t see the Treasurer’s Office as political. “It’s not a partisan position, it does not make policy,” she said. “I was told this is a Republican county, but my hope is to build bipartisan support.”

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