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Vaughan named interim Island County commissioner

Aubrey Vaughan chats with fellow Island County Commissioners Jill Johnson and Helen Price Johnson after being approved as the interim commissioner for District 3. He fills the post previously held by Kelly Emerson, who resigned earlier this year.  - Janis Reid / The Record
Aubrey Vaughan chats with fellow Island County Commissioners Jill Johnson and Helen Price Johnson after being approved as the interim commissioner for District 3. He fills the post previously held by Kelly Emerson, who resigned earlier this year.
— image credit: Janis Reid / The Record

Aubrey Vaughan said Thursday that as interim commissioner he wants to rebuild the connection between Camano and Whidbey islands and help the county through this year’s budget process.

“One of the reasons I’m running is I feel there’s been a disconnect,” said Vaughan. “I promise to restore that.”

And as the board begins its annual budget cycle, Vaughan said putting together a budget, which is usually adopted in the fall, is going to be one of his primary duties.

“This budget cycle is going to be very important,” said Vaughan.

After interviewing three candidates at a special session Tuesday, Commissioners Jill Johnson and Helen Price Johnson deliberated for roughly 15 minutes in closed session before returning to open session and voting to appoint Vaughan, of Camano, as interim Island County commissioner for District 3.

Vaughan has been a member of the Island County Law and Justice Council, a seat he will relinquish during his commissioner service.

The District 3 seat was vacated suddenly in May when Kelly Emerson resigned seven months short of her term’s end, giving a one week notice. Per state law, Emerson’s party, the Republicans, selected three candidates to be interviewed by commissioners to fill the short-term position.

Marc Hennemann of Camano and Richard Hannold of North Whidbey were also interviewed.

Vaughan will fill the position until the November election when a permanent commissioner will be chosen by voters. Four Republicans and one Democrat have filed to run for the seat.

District 3 includes North Whidbey and Camano Island.

“I think the commissioners did a spectacular job getting through this,” Vaughan said. “This is not something that happens every day. It’s tough because they are having to pick one guy from three who are all good people.” 

Ultimately, Price Johnson and Johnson said they selected Vaughan because of his experience serving on the Law and Justice Council.

“He can hit the ground running,” Johnson said.

Johnson said while the decision was tough, she tried to prioritize what was good for the county over her own preferences.

“It is difficult to tap one to sit up here and leave two others to sit in the audience,” Johnson said. “It has been challenging for me to think through the difference between the action I take as a commissioner and the way I would vote as an individual with my own private ballot.”

Price Johnson said she had a “level of discomfort” about having to choose a fellow commissioner when ballots are going out in a few weeks. She blamed Emerson for her early departure.

“In a few short weeks the ballots are going to go out and District 3 will be making their preference known,” Price Johnson said. “Two of the names that will appear on those ballots aren’t even available for us to consider. So none of us in this room created that situation … it was the outgoing commissioner who established this unfortunate timeline for us with her resignation.”

Price Johnson stressed that the board selection for an interim commissioner was not an endorsement for the November election.

“I want to make very clear that I don’t see this action today as an endorsement of any kind. We are charged with filling an opening and that’s the way that I’m approaching this decision,” Price Johnson said. “I encourage folks to be engaged in the process and get to know the candidates.”

Vaughan echoed this plea, saying that he was chosen to fill a short-term need and that all candidates on the ballot should be considered.

 

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