Crider holds off Palmer in Island County auditor race

Sheilah Crider, who was appointed Island County Auditor in January, was being elected in her own right to the post on Tuesday.

She was defeating Oak Harbor City Council member Jim Palmer, a last-minute write-in candidate in the primaries.

With more than 65 percent of the votes counted, Crider received more than 54 percent, 13,870. Palmer received about 46 percent of the votes, 11,670.

"I'm honored to serve and humbled by the opportunity to continue," Crider said Tuesday night. "We've been working hard, conducting ourselves honestly and ethically and doing good work. I think voters appreciate that."

Her next move?

"I'll be back in here tomorrow, counting ballots," she said.

Palmer said he just ran out of time in the Republican-versus-Republican race.

"I'm not surprised I didn't catch up," He said. "It's a large area to cover in six weeks. When you're a write-in candidate and you're running against an incumbent, the odds are against you."

He said he's looking forward to returning to his seat on the Oak Harbor City Council, and may run for office again in the future.

"Never say never," he said.

Crider was appointed to the $67,283-a-year job by Island County commissioners after former Auditor Suzanne Sinclair resigned in mid-term because she was moving to take a job in New York.

Crider's was the only name on the ballot in the Aug. 19 primary for the four-year term. But Palmer received nearly 500 write-in votes, about 3 percent of the total cast, and well ahead of usual write-in suspects such as Mickey Mouse, Bozo and Donald Duck.

He only needed 1 percent to get his name alongside Crider's.

Palmer, 54, a business consultant and appraiser, said he has long been interested in the auditor's job, but when the opening occurred, he had just been elected to the Oak Harbor City Council.

But Palmer said that this time around, supporters in the county Republican Party initiated the write-in campaign without his knowledge, and then convinced him to run.

Crider, 62, was an Oak Harbor City Council member for 10 years before being appointed auditor, and spent 14 years as a member of the Island County Planning Commission. She also served four years as chairman of the Island County Republican Party.

A Whidbey Island resident for 23 years, Crider has a background in media, corporate management, technology, aviation, business and real estate. She has been a Realtor since 1986.

Palmer was born in Tacoma and moved to Oak Harbor in 1979. A longtime member of the business community, he is a former franchise owner of RadioShack stores in Oak Harbor and Freeland. He now has his own consulting firm specializing in the appraisal of businesses, machinery and equipment.

Palmer also is a part-time business instructor at Skagit Valley College.

The county auditor's office handles vehicle licensing, records and archives official documents, performs accounting tasks and prepares an annual financial statement, supervises county payroll and assists in the state's audit of the county's books.

But by far it's most public function is the conducting of elections.

In Crider's first year on the job, a mistake forced the reprinting of 40,000 ballots and 40,000 voter pamphlets. Earlier, part of a candidate's statement was omitted from the military voter's pamphlet, and a page had to be redone.

Palmer said during the campaign that those errors, plus the fact that there was no competition for the office, convinced him to enter the race.

Regarding the errors, Crider said she took "immediate corrective action."

During the campaign, Palmer stressed his business and management experience.

Crider pointed to her own business, professional and governmental experience, which she said gives her "in-depth knowledge and a working understanding about Island County, and the contacts that no other candidate can bring to the office."

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