Jefferson County commissioner’s retirement announcement draws two candidates

Phil Johnson ()

Phil Johnson ()

PORT TOWNSEND — The announcement by Jefferson County District 1 Commissioner Phil Johnson that he will not seek re-election this year has already drawn two candidates for the position.

Kate Dean, 41, manager of the North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development Council, said in a Tuesday news release she intends to be “a new voice to step up and represent working families in Jefferson County.”

Tim Thomas, 45, who challenged District 2 Commissioner David Sullivan in 2012, said his priorities will be to build the Port Hadlock sewer facility and provide more support to county parks.

“They’re gutting the park system, and there isn’t much more to cut without shutting everything down,” said Thomas, a member of the county’s Parks and Recreation Board.

“We need to keep healthy community parks to provide activities for our kids.”

Both intend to run as Democrats.

Thomas ran as a Republican in 2012 but will not do so again, he said, “because they didn’t treat me very well and didn’t want me to run.”

Thomas moved into District 2 to challenge Sullivan. He has since returned to his home on the edge of District 1.

Dean has lived in Jefferson County for 17 years — nine of them in Port Townsend — and has worked with local governments on issues including economic development and climate.

Thomas, who moved to Port Townsend when he was 3 years old, owns and operates Bernt Ericsen Excavating Inc.

Johnson had announced Monday that he would not pursue a fourth four-year term in the November election.

“It was a tough decision, but it was the right decision,” Johnson said.

“I’m just shy of 71, and retirement seems to be a good idea.”

He was first elected in 2004 along with Sullivan, who announced his intention to run for a fourth term earlier this month.

Johnson, a Democrat whose term expires at the end of the year, said he has already talked to six people who are interested in running for his seat but would not do so if he were to run for another term.

“That made me feel really good,” he said.

Johnson said he hopes his successor will have a keen understanding of environmental issues.

He said he is most proud of his involvement in the Atlantic salmon net pen issue, where he pushed for a stringent permit process for the establishment of fish farms in Jefferson County waters.

This action ended up delaying the approval of the county’s Shoreline Master Plan for several years.

Johnson said he was disappointed the county was not able to build the Port Hadlock sewer system but was “pleased that we got it to be shovel-ready.”

Johnson said he intends to spend time in two places after his retirement: the Olympic Mountains and his own garden.

“I expect to live long enough to ride my bike on the Olympic Discovery Trail to La Push for a cup of coffee,” Johnson said of the proposed 130-mile trail, which has been partially constructed and is expected to be finished as funding is secured.

District 1 includes the city of Port Townsend, bordered on the southwest by Hastings Avenue and Cape George and Discovery roads.

Candidate filing week takes place from May 16-20.

Candidates who file will compete in the Aug. 2 primary, with the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, facing off in the Nov. 8 general election.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or [email protected]

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