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New Island County clerk once ran for House seat

Patricia Terry speaks with Island County Clerk Sharon Franzen Wednesday night after the county commissioners appointed Terry to fill in as clerk once Franzen retires in a couple of weeks.  - Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
Patricia Terry speaks with Island County Clerk Sharon Franzen Wednesday night after the county commissioners appointed Terry to fill in as clerk once Franzen retires in a couple of weeks.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

The next Island County clerk is a nurse, an expert in performance management, a graduate of a masters program for public administration and a former candidate for the state legislature.

The county commissioners unanimously voted to appoint Camano Island resident Patricia Terry as clerk following interviews with three candidates at a Wednesday night meeting. Current Clerk Sharon Franzen is retiring from her elected position this month; her last day is Dec. 15.

"I'm very excited. This is wonderful," Terry said after the vote. "This is my Christmas present."

Someone with a long career in the medical field may not have seemed like the obvious candidate for a job handling court paperwork, but Terry made a strong case for herself during the interview process. She stressed her management experience, her political experience, her education, and most of all, her expertise in measuring performance within systems, especially government bureaucracy.

"I feel there's a match between by professional skills and the challenges of this position," Terry said.

The other candidates were South Whidbey attorney Linda Moore, a financial and development services consultant, and Deputy Clerk Debra Van Pelt. The three candidates were chosen by the Island County Democratic Party to fill the vacancy since Franzen is a Democrat.

After the interviews, the three commissioners went into a closed-door, executive session for 20 minutes before returning and immediately appointing Terry. All the commissioners said it was difficult to choose among the three qualified candidates. Commissioners Angie Homola stressed that Van Pelt is well respected in the county and that she will continue to be a valued employee.

"For me, it's the best of both worlds," she said, explaining that the county will benefit from having both Terry and Van Pelt. She also pointed out that Terry will be able to "run a pretty good campaign" next year.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said she supported Terry because she can provide the county with two vital needs during troubled financial times: innovative thinking and excellent customer service.

The clerk's 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.

Terry's extensive experience includes working as a manager in an Oregon state department responsible for external quality review of medical-related contracts. She worked with the Office of the Inspector General and the FBI on fraud and quality of care investigations. She worked with the Department of Defense in a managerial position to evaluate patient care in military hospitals.

Terry also was a lecturer at Seattle University of a course entitled, "Management Analysis and Control."

"What we need to look for is flaws in the system," she told the commissioners.

Terry said her experience running for office will help her in the next election. Terry unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor) last year. The appointed clerk has to run in next year's general election to keep the job. She predicted that the successor to the current clerk will have a serious challenge in the 2010 election.

In her interview, Moore also spoke about her wealth of experience as an attorney, as a consultant with expertise in transactional real estate and real estate development, and as a community leader who co-founded the Goosefoot Community Fund.

Moore discussed making improvements to the office. She pointed out that the state auditor found problems with the way the department handles money and unclaimed property.

"I have the ability to position the office for the next decade," she said.

Van Pelt said she's been preparing to become the clerk for the last two years, after Franzen said she didn't plan to run again. She's worked on her own time with Franzen to learn all the aspects of the job; she's attended numerous workshops and seminars about the court system. She stressed her ability to jump into the job immediately.

"It's essential that the clerk can roll up her sleeves in a moment's notice and work side by side with other employees," she said.

The clerk makes just over $70,000 a year.

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