PORT ANGELES — A former Nippon Paper Industries USA supervisor and Air Force staff sergeant has been hired as Clallam County’s new elections supervisor.
Rick Wagner, 33, took charge last week of an office that is recovering from a lost ballots mishap at the same time the elections division went through the busiest five days of the year — candidate filing week for the Nov. 7 general election.
Wagner, the former production planner and shipping supervisor for Nippon, said Monday it was a good time for the county to roll out an online system for declarations of candidacy.
The introduction of the convenience for potential office holders spared Wagner from having to learn the detail-oriented workings of the elections office at the same time a flood of residents would otherwise have been showing up to file their paperwork in person — especially Friday, the last day of filing week.
More than half of the candidates who filed for office did so online.
“It seems like it definitely cut down on the foot traffic in the office,” Wagner said.
Wagner is a Port Angeles native whose father was a Coast Guard warrant officer, was stationed for a time at the Coast Guard base on Ediz Hook and retired after more than 30 years of service.
Wagner, who grew up in California and graduated from Eureka High School, was honorably discharged after 6½ years in the Air Force, moving back to Port Angeles in 2010 and working at Nippon from 2012 until the end of March, when the last of about 100 employees — except for a handful — was let go.
That happened after the Japanese-owned plant was sold to Mexican-owned McKinley Paper Co., which plans to reopen the mill in retooled form in late 2018.
Wagner moved on, like three of his co-workers at Nippon, one of whom Wagner said left the area and two of whom have gone back to school for retraining.
Wagner replaces former elections supervisor Ken Hugoniot of Sequim, who resigned Jan. 26 the day after he discovered 125 unopened, uncounted Nov. 8, 2016 general election ballots that had been inadvertently left in a disabled voters’ ballot drop-box in the courthouse parking lot.
Wagner’s annual salary will be $53,003, said Auditor Shoona Riggs, who hired him to also be a county public records recording manager.
Wagner and his wife, Christina, a veterinarian at Angeles Clinic for Animals, have two boys ages 11 months and 3 years.
He has never worked in city, county or state government, but that’s not a problem, he said.
“My time in the Air Force, specifically my time as a deployment manager for the last three or four years of my enlistment, was specific to following rules and regulations, and making sure every I is dotted and Ts are crossed, and keeping track of the people and the vested interests of the public in those positions,” Wagner said.
“I believe that’s what Shoona probably saw when she hired me.”
In a separate interview, Riggs said Wagner had the skill set she wanted.
“He brought in supervisory skills, which is what I was looking for for our office,” Riggs said.
“He’s coming in at a time when where we are just beginning the entire elections process, but it’s a perfect time,” she added.
Last week, Wagner shadowed Riggs while he learned the ins and outs of elections.
This week, Wagner is receiving public records training through the state Secretary of State’s Office and state Attorney General’s Office.
It includes watching a dozen videos on records retention and other aspects of public records management, Wagner said.
“It’s similar to what I went through in the service,” he added.
“I may not be an elected official, but I still find this stuff important.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].