Riffe to challenge Sauter

Riffe -
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Island County Treasurer Maxine Sauter will have an opponent in November when the two-term Republican incumbent has her name put before voters.

Linda Riffe, a vice-principal at Oak Harbor High School, says she wants Sauter's job and wants to get the treasurer's office working the way it should.

After finishing out the school year, Riffe officially announced her candidacy Thursday by stopping at several Island County newspapers. A Democrat, Riffe has been a known candidate to the party faithful for more than a month, attending several private Democratic gatherings. However, she has not yet been given an official endorsement from the party.

Noting that winning an election for the treasurer's office will mean a pay cut for her, Riffe said she is in the race on principles. She said she was disturbed by a number of newspaper articles that appeared in The South Whidbey Record and The Whidbey News-Times that detailed alleged shortcomings in the money handling procedures in place at the treasurers office. She said she is also worried about the office's culpability in the Holmes Harbor Sewer District's $20 million bond scandal.

Originally asked by her fellow Oak Harbor Soroptomist club members to run for the office, Riffe said she took more than a month to think it over. Then, she said "yes."

"Once I had done my homework, I decided I had something to offer," she said.

An educator for the past 17 years and a former business owner, Riffe -- who has a masters degree in educational administration, a bachelors in business education and an associate degree in business administration -- said she is qualified to run the treasurers office. She said her goal is to make certain money handling practices in the office -- which came under fire from state auditors last year -- are in compliance with state guidelines.

Riffe has experience with state compliance on public financial matters. She said that when she came to Oak Harbor High School three years ago, she immediately restructured associated student body finances to comply with state guidlines.

Aspects of the state auditor's assessment of the Island County Treasurers Office that most alarmed her were holes in the system that could bring employees under legal fire, slow postings of tax payments, and slow reconciliations of the county's books.

Married to a retired CPA and the mother of two grown children, the 55-year-old Riffe said she looks forward to debates against Sauter later in the election season.

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