Franzen, Riffe to be sworn in today

With Island County election results being certified today, two officials immediately will be sworn into office, an unusual event that stems from one state law applied to two unique circumstances.

Clerk-elect Sharon Franzen, a Democrat, today will assume office upon being sworn in at 8 a.m. by the county commissioners. Franzen replaces former county clerk Jane Koetje, who was appointed by the board after the resignation last year of long-time clerk Marilee Black.

Franzen defeated Koetje in the Nov. 5 election by a final margin of 12,311 votes to 11,674.

Similarly, though for different reasons, Treasurer-elect Linda Riffe, also a Democrat, will be sworn in to replace Rick Renouard, who was temporarily appointed treasurer last Wednesday to fill the vacancy left by the untimely death Nov. 12 of treasurer Maxine Sauter.

Sauter, who was just completing her fourth four-year term as county treasurer, was found dead in her home last Tuesday morning. A memorial service will be held 1 p.m. Monday at Oak Harbor Methodist Church.

Riffe defeated Sauter in the election by a margin of 13,185 votes to 10,989.

Typically candidates who win the election are sworn into office immediately the following year, in this instance on the first Wednesday in January 2003. However, due to the unique circumstances surrounding the current election, state law instructs that candidates filling vacancies should be sworn in immediately after two requirements are met: first, that the election is officially certified by the auditor and, second, that the candidates taking office are bonded as government officials.

Commissioner Mac McDowell said Tuesday that Island County Deputy Prosecutor David Jamieson, upon researching the appropriate statutes last week, informed the board of their duties at last Wednesday’s staff session. At this point, McDowell said, the board is duty-bound to follow the law.

McDowell acknowledged that the early swearing in of two officials is indeed an unusual event, though he added that “basically the same law” applied to both cases. In Franzen’s case, even though Koetje has held the office as appointed clerk for over a year, the elected official must immediately take over upon certification.

“Sharon’s going to be taking over tomorrow,” McDowell said. “Even if we wanted to, there would be no way we could stop her from becoming treasurer.”

Election winners in the other county races, which includes those for county prosecutor and commissioner from District 3, will be sworn in at the normal time next year.

Democrat Greg Banks will retain his position as Island County prosecutor, having fended off a challenge by Republican Kelly Barlean by a relatively handy margin of 13,207 votes to 10,874.

Though it had its close moments, the race between incumbent Democrat Bill Thorn and Republican Bill Byrd for Island County Commissioner Dist. 3 — which comprises Whidbey north of Oak Harbor and all of Camano — ultimately goes to the challenger, with Byrd winning by a margin of 11,809 votes to Thorn’s 11,533.

At one point last week, with some 3,000 ballots still to count, Thorn had closed the lead to 150 votes, but later counting gave Byrd a safe lead.

In other contested races, Republican Barbara Bailey won the open 10th District State House seat over Democrat Eron Berg. Bailey won in Island County 12,124 to 11,117 and districtwide 20,474 to 18,128.

For U.S. Congress, District 2, Democrat Rick Larsen won a second term with 99,740 votes to Republican Norma Smith’s 91,192. Smith, a Clinton resident, was more popular in Island County, out-polling the incumbent 12,574 to 11,725.

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