Island County Clerk resigns, Dems to fill position

Island County Clerk Sharon Franzen has decided to retire from her elected office Dec. 15, a little over a year before her term is over.

“I had made it very clear that I was going to retire next year at the end of my four-year term, but several factors caused me to leave earlier than planned,” she said.

Basically, Franzen said, she wants to spend more time with her family. Her mother’s health is declining; she has grandchildren and “a significant other” to occupy her time. Turning 66 years old also was a factor, she said.

“Being an elected official takes a lot of personal time. It takes more than 40 hours a week,” she said.

Since Franzen is a Democrat, the Island County Democratic Party will nominate three candidates to fill the remainder of her term. The Island County commissioners will choose which candidate to appoint.

Franzen said she knows one candidate who will make an ideal replacement. She’s endorsing Deputy Clerk Debra Van Pelt to fill her shoes.

Franzen made Island County history by winning her first election as a write-in candidate. She started working in the office in 1980 and was promoted to chief deputy clerk in 1984. But controversy brewed after long-time clerk Marilee Black retired in 2002.

Franzen was one of three candidates that the county Republican Party nominated for the position. The county commissioners chose Jane Koetje, a veteran of the county’s public defense department. Koetje fired Franzen that August, a move that Franzen’s supporters called political. The deadline for filing for the office was past, so Franzen decided to run as a write-in candidate and ultimately beat Koetje in the general election.

The clerk may not be a high-profile position, but the office is vital to the functioning of Superior Court. The office is responsible for receiving and maintaining all court records for the court.

The clerk is also the financial officer for the court, which means she’s in charge of sending out restitution to victims and collecting fines.

One of the changes Franzen said she accomplished as clerk was to start a successful collections program.

“It’s a huge benefit to both the county and the citizens of the county who have been victims of crime,” she said.

Also, Franzen said she’s overseen the move toward electronic records and streamlined the internal processes in the office.

“I think I’ve made improvements in the office,” she said. “I think we’ve come together as a cohesive team. We have hard workers in our office.”

Franzen considers herself a native Coupeville resident and she plans to stay in town after her retirement. Her father was born and raised in Coupeville; his family is related to many of the historic Coupeville families.

Franzen was actually born in California but her family moved to the Central Whidbey town when she was less than 2 years old. She raised a son and daughter in town.

“This is my home,” she said. “This is my base.”

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