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Homola forces planning position re-think

Newly-elected Commissioner Angie Homola wants a say on who serves on the Island County Planning Commission.

Although she won't be sworn in until January, Homola, the Oak Harbor Democrat who unseated long-time Republican Commissioner Mac McDowell, is already making waves.

The Board of Island County Commissioners is holding a special meeting Monday, Dec. 29, to reconsider the appointment of David Sherman to the Planning Commission.

John Dean, chairman of the board, said Sherman's appointment was McDowell's last act as an elected official.

Dean, a Democrat, said he was under the assumption that the Planning Commission position could be filled during McDowell's term. However, he said incoming Commissioner Homola wanted to make her own nomination. Homola is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 2.

"She wanted the ability to make the decision herself," Dean said. "I think she has a good point and we should have a public discussion."

Homola couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Sherman serves on the Oak Harbor School Board and is a project manager for Island Construction. He was appointed to the Planning Commission during the Dec. 22 county commissioners' meeting.

Sherman was tapped to fill an opening left by developer Bill Massey, who owns Island Construction. His term expires Jan. 2. He did not seek re-appointment.

Sherman said he doesn't know what the issue is concerning his appointment. He said he hopes there will be a discussion Monday. He added Homola emailed him earlier in the week to schedule a time to meet, but he hadn't talked to her as of Friday. He first met Homola when he campaigned for school board.

McDowell said he did not consult with Massey about his replacement.

Dean said the commissioners will consider whether McDowell should have been able to fill a seat on the Planning Commission for a position that expires after McDowell leaves office.

Joining in the deliberations will be Helen Price Johnson, the Democrat who defeated appointed incumbent Phil Bakke. She took office when the election was certified in November.

McDowell expressed disappointment that the commissioners will be reconsidering Sherman's appointment to the board. He said no new information about Sherman's qualifications has come to light since his nomination was unanimously approved. Having the board flip-flop on its decision would set a poor precedent, he said.

"I think that it absolutely sends the wrong message to the community," McDowell said.

"It's kind of a slap in the face," McDowell said.

Each county commissioner recommends three people to the nine-member Planning Commission. The three county commissioners ultimately approve who sits on the planning panel in what is usually a routine vote.

McDowell said he nominated Sherman because he is an "ideal candidate." He said Sherman's knowledge of affordable housing that comes from working for a construction company would serve the panel well. Island Construction has built a number of affordable housing projects in the county. Such housing is a topic the Planning Commission will tackle in the coming year.

McDowell added that Sherman's experience serving on the school board and another group called The Child Protection Team were also factors in making the nomination.

McDowell said there is precedent where outgoing commissioners, regardless of party affiliation, have made nominations to the Planning Commission. He said previous commissioners Bill Byrd, a Republican, and Bill Thorn, a Democrat, nominated people during their last days in office.

"I don't recall the board ever refusing a nomination," said McDowell, who served 16 years as county commissioner.

He brought Sherman's nomination to the other two commissioners during the Dec. 17 staff session for discussion and the commissioners made their unanimous approval during the next scheduled public meeting. Whether they'll rescind that approval may be decided Monday.

Homola defeated McDowell in November's general election by a 60-vote margin. The result was so close that it required a mandatory hand recount that took the better part of a week to complete.

The special session takes place Monday, Dec. 29, at 10 a.m. in the Commissioners' Hearing Room, County Annex Building, 1 NE Sixth St., Coupeville.

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