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Homola, Price Johnson sworn into office

Judge Alan Hancock and newly officiated Island County Commissioner Angie Homola shake hands as Commissioner Helen Price Johnson signs her oath of office. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Judge Alan Hancock and newly officiated Island County Commissioner Angie Homola shake hands as Commissioner Helen Price Johnson signs her oath of office.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Friday, Jan. 2, marked the dawn of a new day in Island County government.

In a room full of supporters and county employees, Judge Alan Hancock swore County Commissioners Angie Homola and Helen Price Johnson into office.

There wasn’t an empty seat. People lined the walls and spilled into the hallway before the ceremony, waiting, in anticipation for the historic officiation.

“This is the start of what some consider a new era in Island County government,” Commissioner John Dean said.

To put the day’s significance into perspective, he said, Price Johnson is the first woman to serve on the Island County Board of

Commissioners; the addition of Homola marks the first time in the county’s history that two women fill commissioner seats; and the ceremony marks the first-ever, all-Democrat Island County Board of

Commissioners.

Price Johnson started her job after the election was certified in November, because she defeated an appointed commissioner.

Republican Mac McDowell, a veteran 16-year commissioner, lost by a 60-vote margin to Homola, and Commissioner Phil Bakke, also a

Republican, lost the November race to Price Johnson.

“Last year I was the minority. This year I’m a minority,” Dean quipped. Last year he was the only Democrat, this year he’s the only male.

Homola’s 15-year-old daughter, Kira, sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” Her performance was followed by a raucous round of applause, which repeated time and again as each woman addressed the crowd, promising a new future for Island County.

Price Johnson expressed her excitement “to look ahead as we create a new future for Island County,” and Homola called for a “new, open government.”

“Your ideas are encouraged and welcomed,” she said. “I look to the future with a wide angle lens,” reiterating her open door policy and encouraging public input.

Following the ceremony, the new commissioners talked with attendees, most of whom congratulated the women for their political victories. Others wasted no time in voicing specific concerns and changes they’d like to see in the county.

Nancy Zaretzke of Greenbank, who describes herself as fairly new to the county, thought the change was “about time.”

“This is just amazing to me,” she said of the political atmosphere surrounding the most recent county election results.

But, Zaretzke thinks the change will come gradually.

“In this economy, their hands are going to be pretty tied,” she said, referring to the county’s tight budget.

As Homola told the crowd, she’s ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work.

She sees the economic situation as a challenge that will require some creativity. But the down economy doesn’t particularly bother her.

“It’s tough to be broke,” she said. “But we’ll just look in places that may not have been considered before.”

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