Commissioners tap choice for county administrator

Contract negotiations to begin

Ethan Raup

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County commissioners have agreed to enter contract negotiations for a new county administrator with the chief operations officer and chief of staff of a public radio station.

The three commissioners unanimously agreed to begin negotiations with Ethan Raup late Friday after a day of interviews with three finalists. The process had included stakeholder interviews, tours of the departments and a final public interview on Friday.

Raup will fill the position vacated by former County Administrator Philip Morley, who resigned at the end of April after more than 12 years in the post. Mark McCauley, county central services director, has been serving in the interim.

District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton was impressed with Raup from his interviews with him throughout Friday. He said he had been leaning toward one of the other two candidates at the start.

“Ethan Raup would be a great fit for the county and is the leader that we need to move into the next phase of the county,” Brotherton said.

“I think he’d be a really great fit value wise, skill wise and would be a really good conduit to not just the public but the other directors and the electeds and the board itself.”

McCauley and staff are expected to bring a negotiated contract with Raup to commissioners to approve in a public meeting within the next month.

The county administrators gave each of the three finalists — which included Martin Casey, who was the city manager for Sunnyside until recently, and Richard Kuhns, the county administrative officer for Trinity County in California — an opportunity to present their vision for rural counties for the next five to 10 years before answering questions from them and members of the public over the course of three 30-minute interviews.

Raup focused on planning to aid the county’s economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. He also spoke of preparation for climate change, noting that wildfire smoke damages wildlife and slows tourism and rising sea levels mean that larger sea walls may need to be constructed.

Raup also highlighted the challenges and opportunities of being close to the large metropolitan city of Seattle, saying it poses the potential to overrun small communities in growth if not mitigated correctly, as seen with the large growth in North Bend.

He wants to keep the county’s focus on building the economy, supporting the efforts of small business owners, agriculture producers and arts within the community to keep the local economy strong enough to stand on its own.

“I was very impressed by his vision for the county and that is something I’m very looking for right now —someone looking ahead, thinking about the future of our unique county and I think he gets that,” said District 1 Commissioner and Board Chair Kate Dean said. “He has a lot of relevant experience working with government.

“I also heard from a number of staff members that he was very engaging, took a lot of interest in our admin support team and they felt seen and appreciated by that and that’s really important. We’re a small team that has to work very closely together.”

Raup has worked for KEXP, a public radio station in Seattle, since 2014. From 2010-14, he was the director of policy and operations for the City of Seattle, reporting directly to the mayor, a press release from the county said.

During his career, Raup’s other experience includes serving King County from 1998-2003 as deputy chief of staff and also director of the office of regional policy & planning. He was employed at the City of Seattle from 1994-98 serving as special assistant to the mayor, the release said.

Raup has a master’s in sociology of law from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from Brown University.

The county administrator handles many of the executive functions of government and is appointed by the county commissioners to implement policies that they establish.

Morley’s resignation was abrupt and reported to be mutually agreed upon. Dean said the commissioners sought a change in leadership.

We have one of the youngest boards of commissioners in the state and we would like to see more innovation and there’s some excitement I’d say at the board level thinking anew about we do things and why and how we can do them better,” she said at the time.

District 2 Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour led the finalists on tours of the county offices Friday, and she was impressed by Raup during their tours of the community development, public health and other departments outside of the county Courthouse, as he was inquisitive and compassionate with talking with the department directors and staff there.

“It was nice to see him embracing the team and trying to learn more about the county right off the bat,” Eisenhour said.

Friday’s full meeting and Raup’s presentation can be viewed online at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-CAFinalists.

________

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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