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Commissioner candidates field questions
Candidates for the Island County Commissioner District 3 seat fielded questions from the remaining two commissioners Tuesday.
The District 3 seat became vacant in early May when then-commissioner Kelly Emerson resigned, giving a seven-day notice.
Per state law, Emerson’s party, the Island County Republican Party, put forward three names from which commissioners can select a temporary appointee.
Four Republican candidates and one Democratic candidate filed to run for the seat in November’s election.
District 3 comprises North Whidbey Island and all of Camano Island.
During interview sessions, each candidate was asked the same questions with the other two candidates out of the room.
The first interviews were on Camano Island. The second interview session is 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 24, in the Board of Commissioners Hearing Room in Coupeville.
The three candidates are Richard Hannold of North Whidbey, and Marc Hennemann and Aubrey Vaughan, both of Camano Island.
The candidates were asked the following questions:
Over the next few months, there will be many Commissioner budget sessions in addition to the regular business meetings. How do you plan to manage attendance for meetings in Coupeville and be available to constituents on Camano and North Whidbey?
Hannold: “It’s a daunting challenge with the difference in mileage between Whidbey and Camano, but budget meetings take a priority. It’s a matter of time management. There’s the annex here, as well as the internet, conferencing … and I don’t fail to answer my phone.”
Hennemann: “As I’ve said before, I would get a boat. It’s a whole lot easier than going around. I would have regular office hours in Coupeville Monday and Wednesday, and on Camano Tuesday and Thursday. Fridays … we’ll see where the need is.”
Vaughan: “Three days have to be spent in Coupeville … Thursday and Friday will be spent at the annex. I think the commissioner has to do that.”
How would your former employees describe your management style? How would your style be described by your professional peer group?
Hannold: “They would say I’m a good leader. Somebody who works with them as a team. I’m demanding yet flexible. I’m able to take nothing and do anything, to take challenging situations and make it happen.”
Hennemann: “My style is basically leave the room alone so they can get their work done. I’m not a micromanager … these people know what to do. Let them do it. My peers would say I’m fair, I keep track of what’s going on, I watch and listen and monitor.”
Vaughan: “I believe in fairness, I believe in listening to employees. I don’t like the ‘I’m the boss’ routine. My management style is synergism. Everyone has a common goal.”
As an interim commissioner candidate chosen by the Republican party rather than a vote of the citizens, how will you represent constituents with more progressive values?
Hannold: “I’m a fiscal conservative, but I’m flexible. I represent the majority of what the district wants. You get the feedback from the people you work for.”
Hennemann: “I will listen, I will pay attention. I don’t do this for show. I will follow their values if their values match mine.”
Vaughan: “Any elected official, if you go into office with great ideological differences and philosophical differences … if you can’t put your political divisions aside and do what’s right for the people of Island County, I don’t think you should run for office.”
Given an historic inflationary factor of 3-5 percent and a 1 percent cap on property tax collections, what budget strategy will you use to maintain county services?
Hannold: “It’s about planning for the future. You always have to be looking down the road. I like results-based budgeting.”
Hennemann: “What we need to adopt a system called zero-based budgeting. Each department has to come in and justify everything they want to spend.”
Vaughan: “I don’t see we have a problem collecting taxes. We have a wonderful opportunity to constrain spending. We need to look real hard at efficiency.”
Because staffing levels at Island County are now 15 percent lower than they were in 1997, many departments struggle to meet public service needs and state mandates. How do you plan to resolve this problem?
Hannold: “I believe in lean management. You can always do more with less. You tell your staff, this is what you have, now make it work.”
Hennemann: “As we get revenue we can have more staff. We can also go to the state and request a reprieve from the mandates. Cuts can be made, money shifted.”
Vaughan: “I think any department that is understaffed and can show a need can ask … but I would need to look at it on a case-by- case basis.”
From your perspective, what is the number one issue facing District 3 and specifically the residents of Camano Island?
Hannold: “I don’t know Camano Island that well … I know the issues of North Whidbey. But I know there’s a huge disconnect between the two islands. I think the biggest issue is public safety and how the sheriff patrols this island.”
Hennemann: “Property taxes and fees. They think these are too high. They don’t see where all the money is going. Where does it all go? Public safety … that’s the big one.”
Vaughan: “The apathy and discouragement here is rampant. These people are in bad shape. We have to be rejoined with Coupeville. It will take a strong leader, a person with experience and a person who is dedicated to the job.”
Describe your views on land use planning, managing growth and balancing societal rights with property rights.
Hannold: “A person’s property … they should have the right to do what they want with it. If what I’m doing infringes on your rights, then I’m wrong. There’s gotta be a balance.”
Hennemann: “The GMA (Growth Management Act) is having what I think is an unintended consequence of destroying the rural character of a lot of places, including here. Your property is your business as long as you’re not breaking the law.”
Vaughan: “We’re going to have to bring all the stakeholders involved … to work on a plan the state will accept. There needs to be a balance between the environment and what businesses need and what property owners need.”
As a Commissioner, issues often arise that force choices between your own personal values and the views of the citizens that you serve or the law/regulations you uphold. In facing a decision that is in conflict with your personal values, how would you proceed?
Hannold: “I’m a representative of the people, not myself.”
Hennemann: “If it’s the law, it’s the law. If it’s a proposed law, I would have to examine the law and see. If it’s not a law, I would go with my conscience. If people don’t like my conscience, then at the next election they can turn me out.”
Vaughan: “There’s times when you have to put ideas and political differences aside and you have to go with the people you represent.”