By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The League of Women Voters of Clallam County organized Monday night’s panel discussion in Port Angeles to educate prospective candidates for the county’s home-rule charter commission.
Charter commission candidates can file declarations of candidacy May 12-16 at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles.
Commissioners will be selected during the Nov. 4 general election. They will serve for one year in the unpaid positions to review the charter, propose amendments or review public initiatives for amendments.
Former commissioners said there is about eight months of actual work before proposals go before voters in November 2015.
Former charter commissioners Norma Turner and Mickie Vail, League chairwoman Sue Erzen, Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty — one of three commissioners — and Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand told what the commission does, the processes and expectations for the position, and how to run for it.
Commissioners are elected every eight years, according to the present provision in the charter.
In past elections, as many as 75 individuals have run for the 15 positions available. Rosand said.
Five people will be elected from each of the three county commissioner districts, representing the Sequim area, the Port Angeles area, and the West End, Rosand said.
Filing for charter commission positions is free, because filing fees are based on salary.
Clallam County is one of six counties in the state that operate under a home-rule charter.
In most Washington counties, procedures are dictated by the Legislature.
The Clallam County charter — essentially the county’s constitution — was put in place by voters in 1975, Doherty said.
Doherty said western states established during the populist era chose to have a lot of elected officials to hold accountable — an attitude toward state and local government that hasn’t changed much.
“There is a lot of tradition in western states government,” he said.
There have been five elected commissions — in 1982, 1988, 1993, 2001 and 2006 — which have overseen 55 amendments, 28 of which were approved by voters.
Issues have included elected positions being partisan or non-partisan and how the county may or may not use eminent domain, she added,
“They never all pass, and they never all fail,” she said.
The charter allows it to change requirements for county operations beyond those required by the state, although changes must comply with state law.
Key changes from the state statutory form of government in Clallam County include many nonpartisan elected officials, a county initiative and referendum process, and an elected director for the county Department of Community Development.
There is usually little or no campaigning done for charter review positions, panel members said.
“It’s pretty low-key, Turner said.
All of the panel members agreed that charter commission members have “a lot of homework” to prepare for commission meetings and to complete the proposed amendments.
“There is a lot of wordsmithing that goes on, to get the clearest language we could,” Vail said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.