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Treasurer Sauter dead in election aftermath
On Tuesday morning, Island County Treasurer Maxine Sauter was found dead in her Conniston Way, Oak Harbor, home.
According to the Island County Sheriff's office, Sauter, 70, was found by co-worker Linda Root sometime between 7:30 and 8 a.m. when Root arrived at Sauter's home to carpool to their Coupeville office.
Sauter's death comes a week after losing her 16-year tenure as treasurer to Linda Riffe of Oak Harbor.
First elected to the office in 1986, Sauter, a trained accountant and former New York Stock Exchange trader, had come under fire in recent years when her office received serious findings from the state auditor's office.
According to Russ Lindner, chief of investigations for the Island County Sheriff's Office, there was nothing suspicious about Sauter's death. "It was probably caused by some sort of a medical condition," he said. "But that will be determined for sure by an autopsy."
County Coroner Robert Bishop will do the autopsy.
Though a controversial figure of late, especially as her administration of the treasurer's office came under attack by her election opponent, Sauter was well liked and heavily involved in the Whidbey Island community. Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton said Tuesday he will miss Sauter.
"Maxine served this county for 16 years," he said. "She was a good treasurer for years and was involved in a number of causes. She was a great lover of animals and devoted a lot of time and energy to that cause. It is a sad day."
Treasurer-elect Riffe said she was affected by the news when she heard it.
"This is really sad news," she said. "My sympathies go out to her friends and family."
In addition to her government position, Sauter was well-known for support of animal rescue groups. She was one of the founding members of Whidbey Animals' Improvement Foundation and was on the organization's board of directors until five years ago.
"I am shocked and saddened," said Sherry Babich, director of WAIF's Coupeville animal shelter. "We will miss her."
Babich said Sauter had two dogs, a collie rescued from a Camano Island puppy mill earlier this year, and a sheltie.
Members of her Sauter's staff largely declined to comment on her death. Her assistant, Rick Renouard, did say the news increased the call volume in the treasurers office.
"It has been hectic this morning with lots of calls, both about Maxine and just regular questions from taxpayers," he said.the