Deputy treasurer serves for Sauter; Riffe sworn in

Following the death last week of Island County Treasurer Maxine Sauter, Island County has taken two steps to fill that elected position.

Though well behind in the count from the Nov. 5 election, Sauter was to remain treasurer through the end of the year. Last Wednesday, the Island County Board of Commissioners responded to Sauter's unexpected death by naming Rick Renouard, the county's chief deputy treasurer, as interim treasurer.

Democrat Linda Riffe, who defeated Sauter in the election two weeks ago, was to be sworn in today to take over her duties.

Sauter, 70, was found dead in her Oak Harbor home Nov. 12 by a co-worker with whom she car pooled. Island County Coroner Robert Bishop attributed her death to an ovarian tumor.

Sauter was a 16-year veteran of the treasurer's office, having served four consecutive terms since 1986. She was a popular figure in the county with a deep concern for the welfare of animals, having been a co-founder of Whidbey Animals' Improvement Foundation and NOAH, an animal shelter on Camano Island.

Filling the vacancy her death leaves was a bit complicated, but well documented in state law. According to Dave Jamieson, an attorney in the Island County Prosecutor's office, the state constitution has provisions for cases such as this. State statute allows for a temporary appointment by the board until the successor -- in this case Riffe -- is entitled to begin office. Office can be taken by an official once an election has been certified, and the successor has taken the oath of office and filed an official bond. The election will be certified today.

Renouard, who lives in Mount Vernon, said Thursday that with the shock of Sauter's passing it's been a difficult week in the treasurer's office.

"It's been hard, but we're rising to the difficulty," Renouard said. "You can't have anything other than business as usual."

Renouard was a public accountant before his appointment to deputy treasurer a few years back, having run a private practice since 1979. He said his position has prepared him to assume the duties of treasurer, and that the week-long transition wasn't technically difficult.

"It's not that much more different than mine," Renouard said, comparing his new position to the one he previously held.

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