Vaughan backs out of Island Transit director application

Island County Commissioner Aubrey Vaughan announced at the Island Transit meeting last week he would seek the organization’s top job, but he appears to have had a change of heart over the weekend. 

Vaughan, a member of the Island Transit board, announced during the regular transit meeting Friday that he plans to apply for the agency’s open director position, and resigned from a two-person committee charged with searching for an interim director.

But Vaughan has since changed his mind, announcing Monday during the county commissioners’ meeting that he would not seek the position.

Vaughan originally said he didn’t think it was necessary for the new director to have a transit background, which he doesn’t have. He argued that the agency doesn’t need someone who can do bus routes, but a leader who has ties to the community who can rebuild the embattled agency’s image.

“I’ve done this before,” he said during an interview after last week’s transit meeting. “I’ve rehabbed companies with financial problems.”

But over the weekend, he reversed course.

“I’m quite convinced now that the new director needs to have transportation experience,” he said.

Vaughan said the director position should be filled by someone from outside of Island County. Coupeville Councilman Bob Clay, chairman of the transit board, has been acting director of the agency since Martha Rose quit the position last month.

Clay and Vaughan were originally the two members of a committee charged with finding an interim replacement.

Vaughan said he was reluctant to serve on the committee because he was planning to apply for both the interim and permanent position; he said he had no choice but to serve on the committee, though, because fellow transit board member, Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, would be unavailable for 10 days.

Price Johnson was voted to serve on the committee Friday after Vaughan quit.

Tuesday, Clay said the committee identified a list of candidates and conducted some interviews, but no decisions have been made.

Vaughan’s initial intention to apply for the job was criticized by Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley, an interim member of the transit board and vocal IT critic. He said during an interview that he was not impressed with the idea of Vaughan as the agency’s head. Vaughan, Dudley asserted, is “looking for a paycheck.”

“It’s so wrong to even contemplate that you can slide yourself into a position after Island County voters didn’t vote for you,” he said.

Vaughan, a Republican, was appointed to the county’s board of commissioners earlier this year after Commissioner Kelly Emerson, also a Republican, resigned. Vaughan didn’t make it through the primary election. He’ll be out of a job when the election is certified in November.

Vaughan said he has the experience necessary to be the transit director. His background includes work as a supervisor of 1,600 employees of at the L-3 Aerospace at the Army Depot, he said.

After taking office this past summer, Vaughan jumped into the midst of problems at IT. The transit board had to cut bus service and lay off employees after financial problems were discovered.

Dudley said last Friday’s IT board meeting, which focused on next year’s budget, may be his last. Councilman Jim Campbell is due to return from vacation next week and will likely return to the board.