Health Department Director Keith Higman will fill in as the Island County’s appointed interim planning chief.
Higman, who also leads the Department of Natural Resources, will shepherd the planning department until a permanent replacement for Director Bob Pederson can be selected.
Pederson submitted a letter of resignation earlier this month. His last day is April 5 and the Island County commissioners have been scrambling to decide on a hiring process and an interim chief.
The board settled one issue Wednesday when the commissioners unanimously agreed to appoint Higman as the temporary director, though some leadership will be shared with Building Official Andy Griffin.
“I feel Keith is a good choice, not only because he has done it before, but because we do have Andy on the building and permitting side of things and he has a natural leadership role in this area,” Commissioner Jill Johnson said.
Higman led the planning department for six months in 2009 before Pederson was hired. He replaced Jeff Tate, who also resigned.
Commissioner Kelly Emerson expressed concern that a third department, and one of the biggest in the county structure, may be too much for one person and that it might lead to the wrong “perception” from the public.
Emerson made the surprise announcement that she had hoped to instead bring back Jeff Tate, but that she was unable to do so. She did not explain at the time but said later that she couldn’t confirm Tate was actually interested in the position.
She asked to delay the decision another week to see if other “outside” names might be found and considered. The request was not supported by her fellow commissioners, largely for issues of timeliness as Pederson’s last day is fast approaching.
Higman is expected to receive an increase in pay but the board was not presented with any figures during Wednesday meeting so did not make any decision.