A missed opportunity | Editorial
November 18, 2011 · Updated 2:21 PM
Allowing Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson to become chairwoman of the board would have been a good idea, but it was an opportunity missed.
For decades it has been routine to rotate the chair position among the three commissioners each year, at least when it makes sense. Former Commissioner John Dean was chairman twice in a row because, in the second year, his newly elected colleagues had no experience. But this week, Democrats Helen Price Johnson and Angie Homola refused to allow Republican Emerson her turn, instead voting to pick Price Johnson for the position, taking over from Homola who served this year.
True, Emerson isn’t a traditional politician in Island County. Her Tea Party roots make her unpopular with county employees who fear their jobs may be cut or regulations reduced. And more seriously, she and her husband did sue the county when Mr. Emerson added a sun room to their Camano Island home without a building permit. It might also have been situated in a wetland. After a long legal battle, it looks like the Emersons will owe the county thousands of dollars in costs and penalties.
However, Emerson remains an elected county commissioner and she represents the majority of voters who threw Democrat John Dean out of office last year after just one term. So what would have been so bad about letting her take her turn as board chairperson?
Emerson remains a puzzle to many islanders. Putting her up front at board meetings would give her a higher profile, allow her to speak more, and give the public a better idea of where she wants county government to go. The two Democrats would still retain majority control, but Emerson would be learning how to deal with the public and how to efficiently and fairly run a public meeting.
If she were to make a fool of herself, well, that would be something the voting public also needs to know.
A year at the helm would have given the Emerson the experience she needs to lead the county if she becomes the senior commissioner in late 2012, as could happen. Homola and Price Johnson are both up for election. All the issues that got John Dean booted out of office will still be in play, and the economy will still be in the tank.
Emerson may have the last laugh, after all.