Commissioners pick councilwoman for new county auditor

Island County’s new auditor is Sheilah Crider.

The Oak Harbor councilwoman and Realtor was picked unanimously by the board of county commissioners Wednesday to fill the position vacated by Suzanne Sinclair in December.

The commissioners followed the recommendation of the Island County Republican Party who had forwarded three names to them to replace Sinclair, the 12-year veteran auditor who resigned to take a job on the East Coast.

Crider will be busy from the start with the Presidential Primary approaching fast, she said.

“That’s really our focus right now,” Crider said.

The auditor will be sworn in on Monday, Jan. 28 and her first day on the job consists of back-to-back meetings from 10 a.m. to

3 p.m. to get up to speed on auditor business.

“It’s a hit-the-ground-running kind of thing,” she said.

Crider is not yet certain what role she will play in South End issues such as the new agreement between the county and the fair association about the county fair stewardship, she said. Sinclair had earlier promised to help craft a new contract between the nonprofit group and the county.

Crider added that she is taking over an office with an incredibly skilled and talented staff, so her only focus for changes or improvements is getting new technology as far as the county budget will allow.

She also said she will likely be in the office more often than her predecessor. Sinclair was often out of town for conferences.

“I believe the employees on the front line need to know this information first and foremost. The auditor needs to know all these things, but I think the election official should go to the election conference, the same is true for financing and recording,” Crider said.

South End Commissioner Phil Bakke said he was happy with the choice he and his two fellow commissioners made.

“The board of commissioners unanimously chose Mrs. Crider for the position,” Bakke said.

“Her experience as an elected city council person and 10-plus years on the county planning commission were favorable factors for me when making the decision,” he added.

Crider was the top choice of her party. She had received 11 votes out of 13 when the GOP precinct officers met Tuesday to choose their top three of four candidates for the job.

The party also recommended Andrew Loehr of Langley and Susan Engstrom of Camano Island. Applicant Art Hyland of Langley didn’t make the final cut.

While Crider is a longtime Island County Republican and has run four successful campaigns for city council in Oak Harbor, her appointment surprised some because she didn’t join the race until the eleventh hour.

The party had struggled for several months to produce three people willing to be considered for the job.

It was only a week ago that Loehr threw his name into the hat and became the third candidate.

Former county auditor Hyland, who served the county from

1990 to 1997, and Engstrom, a longtime county employee who presently manages the permit center at the county’s Camano Annex, had been the only two candidates until then.

Crider waited until Jan. 18 to join the competition for the position. Crider said she will campaign and run for reelection.

Bakke said he is also glad the waiting game for a new auditor is over.

“I’m pleased that the position has been filled and I’m looking forward to Mrs. Crider taking hold of her new responsibilities,” he said. “She is fortunate in that she is inheriting a fantastic, hard working staff with unmatched integrity.”

Michalea Marx Wheatley can be reached at 221-5300 or

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