Editorial: Island County board needs balance

The Board of Island County Commissioners, long dominated by Republicans, has been a strange place these last couple of years with Democrats holding all three positions.

In hindsight, it was compassionate for the voters to throw the Republicans overboard, because the ship was going down. With the national, state and local economies crashing, the Island County commissioners had no choice but to slash jobs and programs, although not to the extreme extent that some would like.

Through it all the senior Democrat, John Dean, elected in 2007, has kept a cool head and performed well under difficult circumstances.

Although the former community newspaper editor has performed with diligence and patience through the turmoil, it’s time for a change. It’s nothing personal, but there should be a Republican on board. And that would be Kelly Emerson, the former electrician and a newcomer to elective politics from Camano Island.

The current commissioners haven’t had success in convincing conservative residents about the depth of the budget crisis or the need for a property tax increase. Perhaps a Tea-Party Republican on the inside could do a better job of reconnecting conservatives with their county government, while offering a different perspective on the board of commissioners.

Emerson is highly critical of the county’s unpopular mandatory septic inspection program supported by Dean, and she’s against the “clean water tax” that Dean is helping guide through the legislative process. .

But Emerson is clearly naive about some of her other ideas for county government. She wants to spend money the county doesn’t have on performance audits. She hasn’t even studied the budget to look for places to cut, but somehow believes there’s fat there.

The risk is that Emerson is so dedicated to her Tea Party ties that she’ll be blind to the facts that are presented to her and become just an obstructionist. But we believe she’s a genuinely smart person who simply wants to bring her message of belt tightening to county government.

The two remaining Democrats, Angle Homola and Helen Price Johnson, would still have the majority vote. But thousands of islanders would at least have a representative in Kelly Emerson. And who knows, she may win a few battles along the way.

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