Strow seeks to replace Shelton

COUPEVILLE – Veteran Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton is leaving office, and state Rep. Chris Strow is among those lining up to succeed him.

Shelton, a Republican from Langley whose term runs through 2009, announced Monday that he will step down Aug. 31 in order to move to Olympia to be the executive director of the Washington Counties Insurance Fund.

Within hours, Strow, a Republican from Freeland, declared he would apply for the appointment to succeed Shelton and finish the unexpired term.

Strow is a representative of the 10th Legislative District, which takes in all of Island and portions of Snohomish and Skagit counties. He’s been in office since 2005.

“Going home at night and being with my baby daughter” is part of his motivation, he said.

Another reason is a desire to serve people more directly, and that can best be done from the local rather than state level, he said.

By Tuesday, Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair of Coupeville and Reece Rose of Clinton had also expressed interest in the commission seat.

Sinclair has served as auditor for 10 years.

“I have enjoyed my long service with Island County and think there are issues facing Island County that I am better qualified to deal with,” she said Wednesday by phone from North Carolina, where she is representing the state at a national conference of county auditors.

Rose lost to Shelton in the 2004 GOP primary. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

State law dictates that Shelton’s replacement be chosen from the same political party.

As a result, the selection process begins with the Island County Republican Party and ends with a decision by the other two county commissioners, Democrat John Dean and Republican Mac McDowell.

Republican precinct committee officers will be polled on the candidates. Names of the top three vote-getters, in the order of the results, will be sent to the commissioners.

Traditionally the person with the most votes is selected.

If Dean and McDowell disagree, Gov. Chris Gregoire would decide who gets the job, which pays roughly $76,000 a year.

No decision will be made until after Shelton leaves office.

He was first elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He pondered running for state office but never did.

“Local government above all other forms of government keeps you very accountable to those you serve,” he said.

“When you do something that people agree or disagree with, you’re going to hear about it from people at the post office and the grocery store. I like that accountability,” he said.

He said he was proud of votes to modernize the county with new and renovated buildings without raising taxes. He said he’ll be glad to vote to raise the county sales tax a tenth of 1 percent to fund new mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

Though his tenure has been marked with controversy and criticism, he said he always found it exciting.

“It’s been a great ride,” he said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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