Johnson seeks fourth term as commissioner

The longest serving member of the current Board of Commissioners wants another four years.

The longest serving member of the current Island County Board of Commissioners wants another four years on the job.

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson announced this week that she will seek reelection in the fall to a fourth term in office. She represents District 2, which includes the city of Oak Harbor and other areas on North Whidbey.

Johnson currently has no challengers, while four candidates have announced their intentions to seek the District 1 seat.

The Oak Harbor native admits that she has grown and changed in the elected position over the years.

“What I’ve learned is that the initial talking points that get you the job are overly simplistic,” she said. “There is a lot of complexity behind the issues and a lot of different voices in the community that need to be heard.”

While she is still as outspoken as ever, Johnson said she’s worked on her “tone” in recent years. As the sole Republican on the board, she asserts that one of her roles is to make sure that “alternative voices” are heard on a range of issues.

“I push a little harder for these points of view to be on the table,” she said.

Still, she said the job has become less political over the years and more about administration of codes and rules. That’s both good and bad, she said. It’s a positive in the sense that local government doesn’t work on a “who you know” basis. On the other hand, elected officials have less power and influence.

“It’s a less responsive form of government,” she said.

The commissioner said she want to continue in the job because of several large county projects that she hopes to help complete during her tenure.

The county is currently in the midst of amending the comprehensive plan, which will guide population growth, housing and environmental protection for the next 20 years. It’s a complex, two-year project that involves endless meetings on many different levels and a keen understanding of planning. Johnson said she eagerly jumped into the esoteric fray.

County officials are also looking into possibly replacing the aging county jail. The commissioners are planning on hiring a firm to conduct an independent study of the needs of the jail and to recommend the best way to update or replace the facility. Johnson said it’s an important project that she hopes will move forward.

Another project is the ongoing efforts to improve the county’s permitting process. The commissioners held a unique meeting with builders last year to hear their complaints. Johnson said the county has made procedural changes to make the procedures more efficient and transparent, but there is more work to be done.

In addition, Johnson said she wants to focus on designing programs that offer more support for families with children who are involved in the court system. It’s a personal issue for her. She knows through family friends how daunting and confusing the court system can be for regular folks.