PORT ANGELES — Seventeen candidates for Clallam County Charter Review Commission identified possible amendments to the county’s home-rule charter last week in the first of eight listening sessions and forums held throughout the county.
The “We the People of Clallam County” event Thursday showcased 12 candidates from Port Angeles-area District 2, four from the western District 3 and one from Sequim-area District 1.
All 36 candidates who will appear on the general election ballot were invited to Thursday’s forum, said event organizer Therese “Tree” Stokan of Neah Bay, a candidate for the commission. Seventeen showed up.
The two-hour listening session and forum at the Port Angeles library was attended by 12 people, including current County Commissioner Bill Peach.
Five candidates from each district will be elected Nov. 5 to serve on the 15-member Charter Review Commission.
The commission will incorporate citizen input as it develops proposed charter amendments for voters to consider in the 2020 election. It may also forward recommendations to the three commissioners.
Clallam is one of seven counties in the state that operates under a home-rule charter, a “constitution” for county government.
The District 2 candidates who participated were Elizabeth Athair, Ron Cameron, Mary Margaret Doherty, William Kildall, Kraig Kyllo, Patti Morris, Ian Nickel, Marolee Smith, Nick Spaeder, Norma Turner, Jane Vanderhoof and Steven Wyall.
The District 3 candidates on hand were Brian Hunter, Kenneth Reandeau, Lisa Unger and Stokan.
Tony Corrado was the lone District 1 candidate.
A subsequent listening session and forum was scheduled to be held Friday in Clallam Bay.
The next session will be at 6 p.m. this Friday at the Forks Athletic and Aquatic Club meeting room, 91 Maple Ave. A complete schedule is available at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-CharterForums.
The candidates were asked Thursday what part of the charter they would first propose to change.
Here are their responses:
• Smith, of District 2, said she would propose severing the prosecuting attorney/coroner’s position.
The county prosecutor serves as coroner in counties with a population of 40,000 or less.
Mark Nichols continues to serve as Clallam County prosecuting attorney and ex officio coroner despite a county population of about 75,000.
“Most counties change over at the 40,000 mark,” said Smith, who will be 65 on election day and is self-employed.
“We’re at the 70,000 mark. It makes no sense, given the evidence procedure and how a body needs to be examined.”
• Spaeder, also District 2, a retired firefighter, said he would consider proposing a change to the composition of the Board of County Commissioners.
The three commissioners are elected only by those who live in their district.
“I think we need to look at the county commissioners, whether they need to be elected at large or not, and with the growing population in the county whether three is adequate,” said Spaeder, 59.
“Maybe we need to look at having more than three.”
• Vanderhoof, District 2, a retired registered nurse and organic farmer, said the commission should “look at the reasoning and if it’s still appropriate for the prosecutor to be a partisan position.”
Nichols was elected as a Republican in 2014.
“Most of the elected officials, except for the commissioners, are non-partisan except for the prosecuting attorney,” said Vanderhoof, 70.
“I don’t understand the reasoning for that, so I’d like to review that.”
• Wyall, District 2, a home health caregiver, said he was still formulating ideas about what he would to propose to the commission.
“I’m up here for you guys, what you want for our county, because I’ve got a great amount of things I can suggest and put forward,” Wyall, 39, told the audience.
“But really, I need to hear some consensus and some ideas.”
• Corrado, District 1, a retired engineering manager, said the commission should encourage county leaders to hire professionals to solve problems.
“Whether it’s a coroner, whether its a prosecuting attorney, whether it’s a planner, you get the professionals involved,” said Corrado, 78.
“You do away with the local control, local vested interest, and maybe we can get the county to raise itself to a higher level of dedication to principles.”
• Hunter, District 3, a retired stormwater runoff planner, said the charter may or may not require amendment.
“Personally, I just want to be a voice of the people,” said Hunter, 69.
“I think everything should be looked at from a rational standpoint, whether it’s putting gender identify into the charter, or whether it’s putting re-conveyance of trust lands to the county.
“I think all of it needs to be looked at if it makes sense,” Hunter added, “and it needs to express the will of the people.”
• Reandeau, District 3, a retired mill supervisor, said climate change is one of his primary concerns.
“Climate is a big deal for me,” Reandeau said, adding there is scientific consensus on the issue.
“The time for investigation and talk is over now. Our window is closing, and it’s time to do something.”
• Stokan, District 3, a family physician, said water resources have been a key issue in her conversations with county residents.
“We’ve been on a water restriction in Neah Bay since April, which is very common,” said Stokan, 60.
“The water issue is preventing the Makah tribe from expanding.
“They can’t do a lot of things that the other tribes can do because of the water issue,” Stokan added.
“So the No. 1 issue that I think we need to pursue is an amendment to ensure usable potable water, year round, for all communities in Clallam County.”
• Unger, District 3, a retired registered nurse, said her priorities revolve around health and safety.
“Mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction — those are my three,” said Unger, 60.
“Sorry I can’t just do one, but they’re all related and I think we could be doing a lot more for it.”
• Nickel, District 2, an environmental restoration technician, said he would advocate making all law and justice positions non-partisan.
“It is a great disservice to the integrity of our judicial system having those positions be partisan,” said Nickel, 28.
• Morris, District 2, a consultant and Realtor, said the commission should glean ideas from the work of past charter reviews.
“The other thing would be to listen to the citizens,” said Morris, 65.
”There’s lots of citizen input availability once the charter commission is formed.”
“This is a document of the people,” Morris added. ”I want to hear what people have to say.”
• Kyllo, District 2, a church janitor, agreed that the commission should gather input before making recommendations.
“Everybody has their own opinion about the different issues that are impacting not only Clallam County but our state and other states and other parts of the world,” said Kyllo, 56.
“The climate change, that’s a global issue. … But obviously, we need to break down these other issues and get the input from our citizens.”
• Kildall, District 2, a retired private-practice mental health counselor, said he had no agenda or preconceived notions about what programs he would promote.
“I’m open to listening,” said Kildall, 85.
”If elected, I will take the input that we’re receiving here … so that I can have the most in-depth and broadest understanding of what’s going to meet the needs of all of the people of Clallam County.”
• Cameron, District 2, Clallam County undersheriff and a 35-year county employee, said he planned to raise issues like the partisan prosecuting attorney’s position and whether to create a separate coroner’s office.
“I do have some insight in how county government operates and maybe even (the ability) to help the commission in their discussion,” said Cameron, 61.
“But most of all, I agree,” he added. “I want to listen.”
• Doherty, District 2, a retired director of education and development, said the commission should listen to constituents and “protect the voice of the people.”
“I’m pretty committed to listening before we amend,” said Doherty, 73.
“I think there have been some decisions that have been made by the charter review committees previously that may or may not be serving the county well.
“We have to decide what those particular issues are together as a commission,” Doherty added, “rather than coming at it with all the barrels loaded to go for particular issues.”
• Athair, District 2, a retired registered nurse and massage therapist, said she agreed with her fellow candidates.
“What I would to add is that my concern is for the health of all beings in our county,” said Athair, 63.
“That extends beyond to the world and our planet.
“I have a big concern about the 5G and our exposure to so much emissions,” Athair added.
• Turner, District 2, a retired public health nurse, has served on all but one of the past charter reviews.
She provided a history of what worked and what didn’t work on past commissions.
“The election of county commissioners by district has been proposed three times, failed the first two times, and then passed the last time,” said Turner, 80.
“I believe it is worth revisiting. It makes no sense to me that in a county of only 70,000 people that each commissioner doesn’t represent all of us.”
“The decisions that are made by the commissioners affect all of us,” Tuner added, “so they should have to respond to all of us.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].