Georgia Gardner, whose public service in various state and local government positions spans three decades, is looking forward to a calendar without meetings, deadlines and hearings.
Thursday, Gardner announced her resignation as the District 2 commissioner of the Whidbey Island Public Hospital District.
“I wanted to have more leisure time,” she said. “It’s pure selfishness. I just wanted to have the freedom to go out and enjoy a beautiful day.”
A long-time CPA, she’s served on the board that oversees WhidbeyHealth medical system since 2012. She was first appointed by four other commissioners after a seat was vacated. In 2015, she was elected to a six-year term in a contentious race against challenger Rob Born.
Her announcement leaves the five-member board with a vacant seat that must be filled by appointment. Filling vacant seats requires a lengthy application and selection process, a task it’s faced several times in the last decade. Of the four remaining board members, three were originally appointed: Nancy Fey, Eric Anderson and Grethe Cammermeyer. Fey and Cammermeyer have since been elected to the seats.
Gardner said she’s planned a getaway to Mexico after April 15. Giving up doing other people’s taxes is also in her future.
“I am going to retire before my 73rd birthday in July. That’s my goal in life.”
In a letter to the editor, Gardner wrote: “The time has come for me to step aside and let another generation take over. I continue to be an avid supporter of the WhidbeyHealth medical system and I am very pleased to see the new patient wing on budget and on time for completion in May.
“We have the largest and best rural medical system in the state of Washington and often beat out the big city hospitals in metrics from infection rates and services provided to emergency care wait times.”
Ron Wallin, president of the hospital district board that oversees policy and the budget for the public health system, said Gardner’s board tenure “coincided with a time of great change and growth in the district.”
“She’s been an exemplary colleague,” Wallin said.
Raised on Whidbey Island in the days before a hospital existed, Gardner moved to and settled in Blaine, Wa. There, she established an accounting firm, focusing on US-Canadian cross-border businesses. She moved back to Whidbey with plans to retire but “never quite got around to it.”
WhidbeyHealth CEO Geri Forbes called Gardner “a trusted public servant for more than 30 years at both the state and local levels. We are deeply grateful for her passion, dedication and commitment to the health of the Whidbey Island community.”
The district will seek a qualified applicant to replace Gardner, Forbes said. To be eligible, a candidate must reside in District 2, which is Central Whidbey. Once applicants are identified, the process will include interviews held in open public meetings.
The selection process will be similar to the one used in summer 2016 when Oak Harbor veterinarian Dr. Eric Anderson was chosen to serve as District 5 commissioner after board president Anne Tarrant vacated her seat, said Keith Mack, WhidbeyHealth spokesperson. Tarrant first came on board by appointment, then was elected twice.
Gardner, of Coupeville, thanked the community “for their support and guidance during my tenure on the hospital commission. It has been an honor to serve you.”
After moving to Blaine, Gardner served one term in the state House of Representatives representing Whatcom County as a Democrat. She was then elected to the state Senate. She also served on the Blaine City Council and State Board of Tax Appeals.
Gardner also served on the Greenbank Farm Management Group but resigned after reviewing the group’s finances. She told the board of trustees to seek legal counsel regarding “errors, omissions and/or inconsistencies” in state and federal tax returns and “omissions in regard to Island County taxes.”