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Johnson named board chairwoman for 2014

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, seen here praising the Atlantis Inc. youth robotics club this week, was elected as chairwoman of the board of commissioners. The title was stripped from Commissioner Kelly Emerson earlier this year.  - Janis Reid / The Record
Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, seen here praising the Atlantis Inc. youth robotics club this week, was elected as chairwoman of the board of commissioners. The title was stripped from Commissioner Kelly Emerson earlier this year.
— image credit: Janis Reid / The Record

In a surprise act of cooperation, Commissioner Kelly Emerson nominated Jill Johnson to remain chairwoman of the Island County Board of Commissioners for 2014.

The action passed 3-0.

“I thank you both for all of your support,” Johnson said.

Emerson, who lobbied to be made chairwoman earlier this year, said that the move in support of Johnson’s leadership was “in efforts to promote civility for the entire county, both islands.”

Emerson, an outspoken Republican representing Camano Island and North Whidbey, was passed over for chairmanship by fellow commissioners Price Johnson and Angie Homola, both Democrats, in past years.

Under a traditional rotation it was Emerson’s turn to be the chairperson, but her colleagues questioned her work ethic, her relationship with county staff and her accessibility to staff and the public.

Emerson was finally appointed to the chairwoman position in March. Johnson, who replaced Homola on the board, initially delayed the decision, citing concerns about Emerson’s fight with the Island County Planning Department over an unissued building permit.

Johnson relented in March and supported Emerson for the position. The vote was 2-1, with Price Johnson citing continued concerns about Emerson’s leadership skills.

Emerson’s chairmanship was short-lived and she was stripped of the title in July with a 2-0 vote, Emerson abstaining. Commissioners Johnson and Price Johnson reprimanded Emerson more than once about acting against board consensus.

Johnson warned Emerson that she may lose her chairmanship if she didn’t follow the directive of the majority, and ended up rescinding the chairmanship she previously supported.

Emerson said Monday that she thinks the board chairmanship should go to the newly-elected commissioner because of the additional “duties and opportunities to engage in the business of the county” and allowing her to become more familiar with it.

“My nomination will have nothing to do with any past events, it will have nothing to do with performance or personalities…” Emerson said. “I believe it’s the intent of the tradition that it be the newly-elected (commissioner).”

The statement seemed to be countering the opinion of Emerson supporter Bill Burnett who claimed in a lawsuit against the county in July that Johnson was “an illegally elected chair” because she was “a first-term, first-year commissioner who would not normally be eligible for the chair position.”

Burnett’s lawsuit, which has stalled in court system, argued that the two commissioners acted outside the law in removing Emerson as the chairwoman and asked the courts to compel the board to reinstate Kelly Emerson as chairwoman.

 

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