Island County treasurer Riffe will step down at end of term

Linda Riffe, Island County’s treasurer for more than seven years, will retire when her second four-year term ends on Dec. 31.

She said family medical issues convinced her this past December that it was time to hang up the county calculator.

“They need me and I need them,” she said Monday of her family. “It’s been a rough year.”

Riffe, a Democrat who was elected to the treasurer’s post in 2002, has endorsed her chief deputy, Ana Maria d. Nuñez, to succeed her.

Nuñez, a certified public accountant, has worked in the treasurer’s office for five years, the past three as chief deputy treasurer.

A Coupeville Democrat, Nuñez filed as a candidate. Riffe said she approached Nuñez about running for the office.

“She’s more than qualified,” Riffe said. “She has a clear understanding of what the job requires.”

Riffe, of Oak Harbor, said she chose to retire for several reasons, but mostly because of her family.

Besides dealing in the past year with the deaths of her parents and an aunt, Riffe said she also faces a worsening in the condition of her husband, Noel, who has been ill for some time, and in the condition of her younger daughter, Holly, who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“That, combined with the pressures and demands of the job, was enough for me to make the decision,” Riffe said.

“But I’ll finish out my term until Dec. 31, barring any unforeseen circumstances,” she added.

Born in Long Island, N.Y., Riffe has been a Washington state resident for nearly 46 years. She grew up in Southern California, and moved to Washington in 1964.

For 17 years, Riffe taught business and computer-technology courses in Olympia-area schools, and part-time at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, before moving to Whidbey Island 11 years ago.

She was administrator at Oak Harbor High School for three years before assuming the treasurer post.

Of her accomplishments in office, Riffe said she’s especially proud of her efforts on behalf of widows and widowers who were being unfairly taxed.

She said she took on the issue after a 75-year-old widow came to her because her husband had died leaving her $50,000 in debt, and she was facing both property and inheritance taxes to put their property in her name.

“They had been married for 50 years, and she was talking about having to take a job as a housekeeper,” Riffe said. “It was really sad.”

Riffe said she contacted legislators and worked to have a change in the law prohibiting double taxation in such cases fast-tracked through the Legislature in the same session. The change went into effect three years ago.

Riffe said she’s also pleased to have been appointed to the state’s Local Government Investment Policy Advisory Board, and to the Washington State Association of County Treasurers executive board.

She said she applauds her staff’s efforts to improve the county’s bond rating, which she predicted would happen soon, and the fact that her office has had no audit issues in more than five years.

“Even with all the cuts, we’ve provided service and run a very clean office,” she said.

Riffe also said she’s proud of her reduced staff of three full-time deputies, one half-time deputy, an accountant and a chief deputy. Before budget reductions, there were eight deputies in the office.

“They’ve stepped up to the plate,” Riffe said. “They’re still coming in with a smile and serving our citizens.”

Riffe said she doesn’t expect the island’s economy to turn around until the economy of the rest of the country turns around.

“But we’re looking years down the road,” Riffe predicted. “And I don’t anticipate it will ever be the same again. The whole country won’t be.”

“It’s changed the whole way we think about how we do things,” she added of the worldwide financial situation.

“Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s a wake-up call.”

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