Jefferson County boards begin naming their leaders today

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Methods differ among governing boards as they begin the year by electing chairs to speak for commissions and run meetings.

Some boards have proscribed succession plans while others choose their leaders in a more unstructured way.

For instance, Jefferson County Commissioner John Austin could serve a fourth year as chair if his two colleagues support him.

Both the Jefferson County Commissioners and the Port Townsend City Council will elect their leadership today, with Austin and Mayor David King the incumbents.

The county commissioners meet at 9 a.m. in the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St., Port Townsend, while the City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. at historic City Hall, 540 Water St.

The mayor — predominantly a ceremonial office — serves a two-year term with no term limits. Recent mayors served two terms.

The mayor is elected by the council following each council election. King began serving his first term as mayor in 2012.

All the current council members said that King has done a good job as mayor and did not disclose plans to support another candidate, although Council Member Bob Gray said that Deputy Mayor Kris Nelson would be well suited for the top spot.

“I’m thinking that [King] could be the only nominee, but I could nominate Kris,” Gray said.

“David has done a good job, but I prefer to see some variety, and change is a good thing.”

Each council member is permitted to nominate one person. A nominee may decline to serve.

If there is more than one nominee, election is through a written ballot. The deputy mayor is elected through the same procedure.

In most cases, an elected official serves as chair in a year when they are not running.

Austin, 71, is up for re-election this year and said he will decide in March whether to seek another term.

Jefferson County Commissioner David Sullivan said the chair’s job is to organize and run meetings, while Austin said that the chair becomes a lightning rod for public displeasure with a board.

“People direct a lot of their suggestions and helpful criticisms to the board chair,” Austin said.

Some boards, such as the Jefferson County Public Utility, have a proscribed rotation.

PUD Commissioner Wayne King is due to assume the chairmanship this year.

The Port of Port Townsend has an informal rotation that likely will not be followed this year, since Commissioner Steve Tucker is the only one with experience on the board, according to Deputy Port Director Jim Pivarnik.

Since commissioners Brad Clinefelter and Pete Hanke are newly elected, it is likely that Tucker will be elected chairman when the board meets Wednesday, Pivarnik said.

On the Jefferson Healthcare hospital commission, Marie Dressler, who served as secretary, is expected to begin a two-year term as chairwoman.

When the board meets Wednesday, it will elect a new secretary who will succeed Dressler in 2016.

On Dec. 9, the Port Townsend School Board elected Holley Carlson as chairwoman, with Ann Burkhart named to handle public information queries.

Some entities issue statements only through the chair while others, like the county commissioners, are more fluid.

“While we live in our individual districts, we each represent the entire county so we talk to all of our constituents directly,” Sullivan said.

The Chimacum School Board elected Kevin Miller chairman at its Dec. 18 meeting. The Brinnon School Board elected Bill Barnet chairman and Shoona Davis was elected chairman of the Quilcene School Board.

Rich Stapf will serve another term as chairman of the East Jefferson Fire-Rescue board of commissioners, as Board Member Zane Wyll did not want to serve and the third member, Dave Johnson, is newly elected.

The Quilcene Fire District commissioners elected Gary Phillips as chairman. Ron Garrison was elected to serve another term as chairman of the Brinnon Fire District commission.

Port Ludlow Fire and Rescue will elect its chairman at the Jan. 14 meeting. The current chairman is Ron Helmonds.


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: January 05. 2014 7:12PM
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