Candidates for the Island County Commissioner District 3 seat fielded questions from the remaining two commissioners Tuesday.
The District 3 seat became vacant in early May when then commissioner Kelly Emerson resigned suddenly giving a seven-day notice. Per state law, Emerson’s party, the Island County Republican Party, put forward three names from which commissioners can select a temporary appointee.
Four Republican candidates and one Democratic candidate have filed to run for the seat permanently in November. District 3 comprises North Whidbey Island and all of Camano Island.
At one of two interview sessions, each candidate was asked the same questions with the other two candidates stepping out of the room. The first interview took place on Camano Island. The second interview session will be 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 24, in the Board of Commissioners Hearing Room in Coupeville.
The three candidates are Richard Hannold of North Whidbey, and Marc Hennemann and Aubrey Vaughan of Camano Island.
Over the next few months there will be many Commissioner budget sessions in addition to the regular business meetings. How do you plan to manage attendance for meetings in Coupeville and be available to constituents on Camano and North Whidbey?
— Hannold: “It’s a daunting challenge with the difference in mileage between Whidbey and Camano, but budget meetings take a priority. It’s a matter of time management.”
Hennemann: “As I’ve said before, I would get a boat. It’s a whole lot easier than going around.”
Vaughan: “Three days have to be spent in Coupeville… Thursday and Friday will be spent at the annex.”
How would your former employees describe your management style? How would your style be described by your professional peer group?
Hannold: “They would say I’m a good leader. Somebody who works with them as a team. I’m demanding yet flexible.”
Hennemann: “My style is basically leave the room alone so they can get their work done. I’m not a micromanager … these people know what to do. Let them do it.”
Vaughan: “I believe in fairness, I believe in listening to employees. I don’t like the ‘I’m the boss’ routine.”
As an interim Commissioner candidate chosen by the Republican party rather than a vote of the citizens, how will you represent constituents with more progressive values?
Hannold: “I’m a fiscal conservative, but I’m flexible. I represent the majority of what the district wants.”
Hennemann: “I will listen, I will pay attention… . I will follow their values if their values match mine.”
Vaughan: “… if you can’t put your political divisions aside and do what’s right for the people of Island County, I don’t think you should run for office.”
Given a historic inflationary factor of 3-5 percent and a 1 percent cap on property tax collections, what budget strategy will you use to maintain County Services?
Hannold: “It’s about planning for the future. You always have to be looking down the road. I like results-based budgeting.”
Hennemann: “What we need to adopt is a system called zero-based budgeting. Each department has to come in and justify everything they want to spend.”
Vaughan: “We have a wonderful opportunity to constrain spending. We need to look real hard at efficiency.”
Because staffing levels at Island County are now 15 percent lower than they were in 1997, many departments struggle to meet public service needs and state mandates. How do you plan to resolve this problem?
Hannold: “I believe in lean management. You can always do more with less. You tell your staff, this is what you have, now make it work.”
Hennemann: “As we get revenue we can have more staff. We can also go to the state and request a reprieve from the mandates.”
Vaughan: “I think any department that is understaffed and can show a need can ask… but I would need to look at it on a case by case basis.”
Describe your views on land use planning, managing growth, and balancing societal rights with property rights.
Hannold: “A person’s property… they should have the right to do what they want with it. If what I’m doing infringes on your rights, then I’m wrong. There’s gotta be a balance.”
Hennemann: “The GMA [Growth Management Act] is having what I think is an unintended consequence of destroying the rural character of a lot of places, including here. Your property is your business as long as you’re not breaking the law.”
Vaughan: “We’re going to have to bring all the stakeholders involved… to work on a plan the state will accept. There needs to be a balance between the environment and what businesses need and what property owners need.”
As a Commissioner, issues often arise that force choices between your own personal values and the views of the citizens that you serve or the law/regulations you uphold. In facing a decision that is in conflict with your personal values, how would you proceed?
Hannold: “I’m a representative of the people, not myself.”
Hennemann: “If it’s the law, it’s the law. If it’s a proposed law, I would have to examine the law and see. If it’s not a law I would go with my conscience. If people don’t like my conscience then at the next election they can turn me out.”
Vaughan: “There’s times when you have to set ideas and political differences aside and you have to go with the people you represent.”