Commissioners reach out to voters

In Island County government’s lone primary, the two opponents got a chance to square off Tuesday night.

The League of Women Voters sponsored a candidates forum for national, state-wide and local candidates who have opponents for the Sept. 14 primary election.

One of the subjects the candidates have made an issue is how efficient the county is run. Members of the audience alleged that it could take up to a year for a business to obtain a building permit.

“I think it takes too long to get a building permit,” Republican candidate Mike Shelton – the incumbent – said. “One of the things people do is they look at the people behind the counter and question their efficiency.”

Shelton said it currently takes approximately eight to 10 weeks to have a completed permit in most cases that don’t involve land use problems.

“I’ve known people who leave our planning department in tears,” Shelton’s opponent, Reece Rose said.

Rose proposed a check list for permit applicants so that it can be ensured the application is complete.

Rose argued that trimming the county government would help the county run more efficiently, but Shelton said Rose is mistaken.

“Reece always talks about smaller government, but she doesn’t even know what she should cut,” Shelton said. “We do have some optional things that we do ... like the hydrology department, which I’m not about to cut because water is very important to Island County. To make blanket statements is not good.”

The county recently cut 50,000 man hours in an attempt to trim from its budget, according to Shelton. One of the areas the county has avoided cutting are in the criminal justice departments, such as the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices.

“Most people appreciate the fact that we have a significant number of sheriff’s deputies,” Shelton said.

Shelton said the criminal justice programs take up approximately 53 percent of the county’s budget.

“We have cut local government to the point that there’s not much left to cut,” he said.

Rose voiced her desire to limit the number of terms a commissioner can serve. Shelton is seeking his fourth consecutive term as commissioner. Rose said she would limit herself to no more than two terms.

“Shelton has been in office for 12 years and is trying to go for 16,” Rose said. “That’s too long to serve.”

According to Public Disclosure Commission records, Rose has switched between the Libertarian and Republican parties numerous times since declaring her intent to run for county commissioner.

She is currently running as a Republican against the incumbent Republican Shelton.

“I never really left the Republican party,” Rose said. “My principals haven’t changed a bit.”

Rose said that she had been a card carrying member of the Republican party since her youth.

“I joined the Libertarian party out of frustration,” she said. “I thought maybe I could make changes from within the Libertarian party.”

Rose eventually became a voting member of the Libertarian Party of Washington State’s State Central Committee.

Shelton said he did not know why Rose changed parties.

“Do you change parties because you thing you have a better chance of getting elected?” Shelton said. “I don’t know.”

Rose said her decision to rejoin the Republican party was motivated by a shift in the party’s politics.

“I am convinced that the Republican party is on the right track,” Rose said. “But it takes people working inside the party.”

Only voters in District 1 will see Shelton and Rose on their primary ballot. The winner will face Democrat Dean Enell in the general election when voting will be conducted countywide. District 1 encompasses the area from the southern tip of Whidbey Island to the San de Fuca area of Central Whidbey, including Langley and Coupeville.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at

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