Island County has its first county administrator.
Commissioner Melanie Bacon, the board chairperson, announced Thursday that Michael Jones, the Blaine city manager, has accepted the position. The annual salary for the position is set at $135,000-$155,000.
“He brings enthusiasm and a positive outlook for building a strong organization,” Bacon said in a statement.
The commissioners went through the process of finding candidates for the position last year and offered the job to two finalists, but both ended up declining the job in December. As a result, the hiring process was restarted.
The county administrator is meant as an “internal-facing position” that will help commissioners manage departments and department heads. The three commissioners oversee county departments that don’t have elected heads, including public works, planning, public health, human services, human resources and facilities.
The county administrator position recently became a campaign issue. Tim Hazelo and former county commissioner Rick Hannold, the two Republican candidates challenging Democratic Commissioner Janet St. Clair, said during an Old Goats forum that they were against hiring a county administrator, which they see as an unnecessary expense.
Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, however, said Hannold seems to misremember his own history. When Hannold was on the board with Johnson and Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, he was in favor of hiring a county administrator, she said.
“I was the holdout,” Johnson said. “But since then I’ve come around to understand the necessity of having someone in that position.”
The commissioners previously said that nearly all other counties have administrators to handle day-to-day administration, which frees the elected commissioners up to focus on policy issues. The city of Oak Harbor, for example, is a much smaller organization but has a city administrator.
The Northern Light reported that Jones resigned as Blaine city manager effective June 30. The newspaper reported that Jones worked at the city for 15 years, starting as the city’s permit manager before becoming the community development director. He served as interim city manager when the former manager retired and was appointed to the permanent position in September 2018, according to the newspaper.
The Northern Light reported that Jones studied hospitality management in college and worked in resorts across the country before his government career; he earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University in geography and environmental resource management in 1998. He worked as a GIS and environmental analyst in California before working as a senior planner for the city of Ferndale, according to the paper.