Primary to winnow commissioner candidates

The three candidates for the District 3 position will be narrowed to two.

Voters on North Whidbey and Camano Island have three very different commissioner candidates to choose from in the Aug. 2 primary election.

The three candidates for the District 3 position will be narrowed to two.

Commissioner Janet St. Clair, a Democrat, is seeking reelection after her first term. A former nonprofit administrator and social worker, St. Clair is a self-described policy wonk who dives deep into subjects when advocating for issues like broadband internet for underserved areas, behavioral health for youth, climate goals and affordable housing.

Rick Hannold, a retired Navy chief petty officer, is a former county commissioner who says his knowledge of government will allow him to hit the ground running. A Republican, he positions himself as a moderate and said his priorities are to bring the county budget back under control, ease regulations that increase the cost of housing and provide collaborative leadership.

Tim Hazelo is the chairman of the Island County Republican Party, a former candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives and a former flight engineer in the Navy and the Navy Reserves. While he admits to lacking knowledge about some aspects of county government, he said he’s a quick learner and a good listener with unbounded energy. He was endorsed by the county Republican party.

Hazelo said he plans to keep his job as a simulator computer operator with a company that contracts with the Navy if he wins the election, although commissioners say the $100,000-a-year position is a full-time job.

Since it’s a Top Two primary, it’s likely that one of the two Republican candidates will be the one to be knocked out of the race, which may be the reason for disagreements and some hard feelings between the Hannold and Hazelo camps.

In an interview, Hannold said he feels that Hazelo has inappropriately used his position as chairman of the county Republicans to further his candidacy. He said he saw texts that Hazelo sent to precinct committee officers encouraging them to vote to endorse him, which Hannold felt was inappropriate.

“He should have stepped down as chairman when he ran for commissioner,” Hannold said.

Further, Hannold said Hazelo has little knowledge of county government and few ideas — often confusing the county with other governmental bodies — but just parrots his ideas at forums.

Hazelo, on the other hand, said in an interview that he’s been nothing but gracious to Hannold during the campaign and even said at an event that either one of them would make a good commissioner. He said he was very careful to separate his position as chairman of the party with his candidacy as county commissioner.

Hazelo said Hannold tends to have a “gruff” manner that some voters may not like.

Both Republican were critical of St. Clair’s management style, which they said fosters a sense of chaos and harms staff morale.

Hannold admits to making mistakes in his campaign that may cost him. He doesn’t appear in the voter’s pamphlet for the primary election. He said he sent his statement to elections officials and got an email in response, but he admits that he may be at fault.

In addition, Hannold said at the Old Goats forum in May that the board of commissioners, which is made up of three women, needed a man and called St. Clair an “evil woman.” Hannold apologized for his comment about St. Clair but said the South Whidbey Record story took his other comments out of context. He said his point was that a man would have a different perspective to add to the board and that his comment was somewhat “tongue in cheek.”

One issue that illustrates the differences between the candidates is how county government should respond to the dearth of affordable housing.

St. Clair

St. Clair said there are a few different reasons for the “squeezing of the working family housing market,” including an increase in homes being turned into short-term rental properties.

The best way to address the issue, she said, is the creation of public-private partnerships like the project the county is doing with the nonprofit group Shelter Resources Inc. The county awarded the group a parcel of land next to the county’s new stabilization center on North Oak Harbor Street with an agreement that the group would build an estimated 80 affordable apartments.

St. Clair pointed out that the commissioners made affordable housing a top priority for American Rescue Plan Act funding and millions of those dollars were earmarked for workforce housing.

St. Clair said she was hesitant about the affordable housing sales tax, which was a 0.1% sales tax that the board adopted in March. She said she didn’t feel that the tax needed to be adopted right away, especially with all the AARPA funds and the rise of inflation. But she voted for it, she said, when it was clear that the other two commissioners were going to adopt it.

“Getting board consensus is important,” she said. “Sometimes it’s good to act as a body.”


Hannold argues that there really isn’t an affordable housing crisis on the island. He said the perceived lack of housing is embellished by those who stand to gain money by building and selling houses.

“They are real estate people and developers who want to build housing on large tracts of land,” he said, adding that it is the county’s responsibility to limit urban sprawl and protect the rural character of Whidbey and Camano islands.

Hannold said it’s simply not true that military families can’t find housing on the island. He points out that the daily trend in the flow of traffic on and off the island shows that people are leaving to work off the island and returning to live on the island.

Nonetheless, Hannold said he favors easing regulations to reduce the cost of housing. He said the state Growth Management Act shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all policy because it doesn’t make sense to have the same rules for King County and Island County.

Hannold is especially concerned about climate action plans on both the state and local level because he feels that they will result in rules that will increase the cost of homes. While he admits climate change is real, he said it’s an issue that should be addressed on the federal level, not by county government.

Hannold was one of the first voices in the county to oppose the affordable housing sales tax, saying that it should have been placed on the ballot for the voters to decide.


Hazelo doesn’t question whether there is an affordable housing crisis, but he said the county should approach the problem through de-regulation and evidence-based approaches.

He suggested that the county should look at creative solutions like building many small homes on the property that the county owns in Oak Harbor, although the county already contracted with the nonprofit to build apartments. If elected, he said, he will research what has worked in other areas across the country and work with the local municipalities to find the best solutions.

Hazelo, who lives on a small farm, said it’s also important to preserve the county’s rural lifestyle. He said the county needs to strike a balance between preserving rural character while also reducing regulations.

He was also opposed to the affordable housing sales tax or any efforts to manage climate change on the local level. He believes in smaller government on every level.

Hazelo said he believes in helping people, having taken in several homeless people over the years. Yet he said help should come with expectations and rules. He’s opposed to the “housing first” model in which homeless people are housed without conditions right away, with supportive services afterward.

“We need to have compassionate, smart programs that give people a hand up, not a hand out,” he said.