The changing of the guard at the Island County Courthouse always promises a fresh start and new opportunities.
Newly elected county officials are now on the job after having been sworn in Thursday. Some are returning to familiar territory, such as the re-elected Auditor Suzanne Sinclair, Treasurer Linda Riffe, Clerk Sharon Franzen and Coroner Robert Bishop. But in several other departments there are entirely new faces, including Sheriff Mark Brown, Assessor Dave Mattens and Commissioner John Dean.
The public should have high hopes for all three new faces. Brown is a veteran law enforcement officer with a knack for making friends and a proven record of helping his community. Mattens has an impressive background in the military, NOAA, and computer services. Dean is an affable former community newspaper editor who has lived in Island County for many years and is intimately familiar with its challenges.
Mark Brown has some difficult shoes to fill. Former Sheriff Mike Hawley, assisted by his aide Jan Smith, were models of openness. The public was kept informed of major crimes and the whereabouts of sex offenders, and if a deputy was guilty of a serious infraction, the situation was treated with openness rather than a coverup. All Sheriff Brown has to do to get off to a good start is maintain this tradition.
Dave Mattens will have time to get acclimated in the Assessor’s Office before the tax statements hit the fan this spring and property owners are once again up in arms. It will be interesting to find out how the skyrocketing assessments announced last fall translate into the real dollars found in tax statements. Mattens will have to convince the public that he feels their pain and take the time to thoroughly explain the assessment process and convince the public that all property is being assessed fairly. Once he establishes his credibility, he’ll be on his way to a successful career as a public servant.
John Dean, as the only Democrat on the three-man board of commissioners, will enjoy a honeymoon period where half the electorate is just happy to have someone onboard they feel will listen with a sympathetic ear to their concerns. With a growing population and an increased need to protect the Puget Sound environment, all residents should feel they have a voice in county government. Dean’s presence should make a lot more people feel like they have a say in the future of Island County.
The election process gives county government a chance at a fresh start every four years. Voters, as usual, made good choices last November which should start paying dividends in 2007.