Letter: County needs a change in leadership


I am writing to express concerns about Commissioner Melanie Bacon’s recent decision to forgo many of her District 1 responsibilities in order to fill a vacant HR position for the Island bus system. This decision highlights broader issues within our county’s leadership, especially regarding transparency and accountability in hiring practices.

Commissioner Bacon’s choice to take on this HR gig, even if temporarily unpaid, leaves District 1 with a part-time representative, which is unacceptable. Taxpayers deserve full-time commitment from their elected officials, given the healthy salary we fund.

If the bus system HR role is indeed so critical, why not post the job openly and competitively? Plenty of qualified HR professionals can fill this role without compromising the duties of an elected commissioner. This situation raises questions about whether proper, transparent processes are being followed and whether she intends to stay on in a paid role should she lose the upcoming primary election.

There is an apparent pattern by this Board of Commissioners for bypassing open and public hiring processes. Good government practices require that key appointments be made transparently, not with non-competitive “bypass appointments.” This lack of openness erodes public trust, raises concerns of political nepotism, and undermines our government’s effectiveness.

Island County reportedly leads the state in staff turnover, a clear marker of underlying dysfunction. Organizational culture starts at the top, and the problems in our county leadership can have tangible consequences. As talented professionals leave our county government in search of a better work culture, it weakens the essential services we rely on.

Reported drama, bullying, divisiveness and insider practices are not instruments of governance; they are hallmarks of a toxic leadership culture that must change.

This is a non-partisan call to action: Let’s vote in fresh leadership that prioritizes transparency, accountability and respect.

To the editor, we implore you to hold our elected officials accountable in your coverage. Don’t settle for commissioner press releases masquerading as news articles. Ask tough questions about non-competitive appointments and hiring practices and demand transparency in all government dealings. Help your readers shine an unbiased light on our county leadership so informed citizens can hold power to account.

I gain nothing in openly expressing these concerns; in fact, I have been cautioned about the risks of bureaucratic repercussions. As a combat veteran, business owner, father and tax-paying citizen, I refuse to operate for fear of my local government. The law protects against retaliatory practices, and I hope others will speak out about the problematic culture that seems to pervade current Island County leadership. We cannot address systemic issues by treating symptoms; we must recognize the core problem.

Let’s collectively work to replace caustic, self-serving leadership with openness, humility, and respect, creating a government that reflects our community’s values— a community that prioritizes progress and the well-being of its citizens.

Jake Stewart


Editor’s note: Island Transit’s HR director is on administrative leave, so the position cannot be advertised yet.