Island County Assessor Mary Engle will continue working as the county’s interim planning director until at least the end of March.
Engle, however, said she hasn’t decided whether she will seek the position on a permanent basis.
Engle has been the elected county assessor for 10 years. After Jessica Carpenter, the former planning director, submitted her resignation in early August, the commissioners appointed Engle to run the department while continuing as the assessor.
Engle is frank about the problems she encountered when taking over the office of 31 staff members. She said the budget wasn’t prepared, for example, and she had only two weeks to create one from scratch. She’s working to get mobile devices up and running for staff working in the field; the department has long had the requisite software and iPads, but staff was still writing in notebooks.
“Things are getting done that weren’t getting done before,” she said.
Engle earns $10,000 a month as the interim planning director, which is based on Carpenter’s salary of $120,000 a year. But since Engle doesn’t receive benefits separate from her position as the assessor, she is saving the county money, commissioners pointed out.
As the assessor, Engle also earns $92,000 a year.
In late December, the commissioners extended the agreement with Engle — originally set to expire Dec. 31 — until the end of March. While it’s been five months since the former director left, commissioners haven’t started advertising for the permanent planning director position.
Commissioner Janet St. Clair said the board hoped to give Engle a chance to mold an effective team, particularly in hiring an assistant director.
In addition, the board wanted the new commissioner coming into office — who turned out to be Melanie Bacon — to have a hand in setting the job description and hiring the head of the important office.
Engle said she has interviewed candidates for the assistant director position and hopes to hire someone soon.
She said the experience and abilities of the director and assistant director should complement each other, so the choice of the assistant can inform the hiring of the director.
Engle explained that she excels in organization skills, which has served her well as assessor and planning director.
She said she trained the staff in the assessor’s office, particularly Chief Deputy Jason Joiner, to be self sufficient.
This has allowed her, she said, to dedicate most of her time to the planning department.