Jefferson County assessor announces he's retiring
Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Jack Westerman III addresses the county board of commissioners on Tuesday.
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
Print This | Email This
PENINSULA HOME FUND: A hand up for love -- 12/12/13 -10:28 PM
Today's PDN Page 1 . . . and read faster, absorb more -- 12/12/13 -09:36 PM
Trooper in car crash gets 4-day suspension without pay -- 12/12/13 -06:09 PM
Deer Park underpass project on schedule -- 12/12/13 -06:06 PM
Westerman presented a brief letter of resignation to the county commissioners Tuesday.
“I have been working in this job for 38 years, and it's time for me to retire,” Westerman told the commissioners.
“I am submitting this now in order to give the Democratic Party time to select a replacement.”
Because the assessor is a partisan elected office, the Jefferson County Democratic Party will pick three names from a list of applicants that will be presented to the three county commissioners, who then will select one to serve the remainder of Westerman's term.
The next election will be in November 2014.
Westerman, who turned 62 on July 27, is both the longest-serving Jefferson County elected official and the longest-serving county assessor in Washington state.
He said he contemplated retiring before the 2010 election but stayed because he did not qualify for Social Security, for which he is now eligible.
He also wanted to retire after the 2013 filing deadline to save the county the cost of a special election.
He said he was giving early notice of his retirement so he could spend some time training his successor.
He began in the office in 1975 as an appraiser before seeking elected office three years later.
County Democratic Party Chairman George Yount said that the party was to meet Tuesday night in order to schedule the selection process, expecting that it will start as soon as possible.
Yount said the party soon would announce the details of the application process and that the three names would be selected through a vote by 29 precinct committee officers.
Yount said he did not know how much of the process will be open to the public.
After the announcement, several of Westerman's colleagues said his “institutional memory” and breadth of experience will be hard to replace.
“People who are outside of county government have no idea how valuable this institutional memory is,” said Superior Court Clerk Ruth Gordon.
“Jack has been around a long time, and he has done his job with confidence.”
“Jack has been beneficial to us because he knows the genesis of problems and what has been done before,” said District 2 County Commissioner David Sullivan.
“He's been a valuable person on the budget committee; he brings a lot to the table and understands how county government works.”
Westerman has served continuously since 1979.
Westerman ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 county commissioner's seat in 1992, challenging Democratic incumbent Larry Dennison in the partisan primary at a time when the top two primary system was not in effect.
After the sole Republican candidate withdrew from the race, Republican Bob Hinton ran as a Democrat and beat both Dennison and Westerman, winning the office by acclamation.
“Larry and I split the liberal vote, and Bob got all of the conservatives, so he got the most votes, and there was no election in November,” Westerman said.
After switching back to the Republican Party, Hinton was defeated in 1996 by Democrat Dan Harpole.
Westerman said the experience led to his current belief that all county elected offices should be nonpartisan.
Westerman is one of 20 candidates for freeholder in District 1. Five candidates will be chosen from each of the three districts, for a total of 15, out of a total 51 candidates.
Freeholders will serve on a board that will write a new county charter if the process is approved by the voters Nov. 5.
If Westerman is elected, he plans to advocate nonpartisanship in the county charter.
“Almost everyone agrees that the offices of assessor, auditor, treasurer and sheriff should be nonpartisan,” Westerman said.
“The debate will be whether to convert the commissioners and the prosecutor,” he added.
“If an official doesn't belong to a party, you get away from the partisan bickering and select the person who is best for the office.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Last modified: September 03. 2013 6:08PM