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Committee picks three Pierce County auditor finalists

Post by David Wickert on Jan. 7, 2009 at 3:48 pm with No Comments »
January 7, 2009 3:48 pm

A committee has picked three finalists for Pierce County auditor. Now the decision goes to the County Council, and likely to court.

The five-member committee selected three finalists Wednesday from among 13 applicants for the auditor’s job:

&bull Katie Blinn of University Place, assistant director of elections for the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.

&bull J. Richard McEntee of University Place, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for state auditor last fall.

&bull Former state Rep. Jan Shabro of Lake Tapps.

The committee’s recommendations were given in alphabetical order, not order of preference. The County Council will interview the candidates next Tuesday before making an appointment.

The committee members – five local elected officials – praised the finalists as the best qualified to run one of the most complicated offices in Pierce County government. The auditor oversees county elections, licensing, recording and animal control.

"They all were good candidates," said Lakewood Councilwoman Claudia Thomas, a committee member. "These happen to come closest to the qualifications."

Blinn helps oversee elections statewide and monitored Pierce County elections during November’s first use of ranked choice voting. Previously, she served as a nonpartisan staff counsel for the state House of Representatives and was a deputy Pierce County prosecutor.

McEntee is a University Place Public Safety Commission member and former Pierce County Republican Party treasurer. He also has served on the Fircrest City Council and has held other public posts.

Shabro spent eight years on the County Council and four in the Legislature. She ran unsuccessfully for county assessor-treasurer last fall.

Among the applicants not selected to be finalists: Tacoma City Councilwoman Julie Anderson and Steven Cook, a Republican who ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat state Rep. Steve Conway in the 29th Legislative District last fall.

The auditor’s job became vacant when former Auditor Pat McCarthy became county executive this month. It falls to the County Council to appoint her successor.

Whoever is appointed would serve until voters pick an auditor in a special election next November. The winner in November would be up for election again in 2010, when McCarthy’s term expires.

Voters made the auditor’s office nonpartisan in 2007. But party politics may yet play a role in deciding the next auditor nonetheless.

Local Democrats say that because McCarthy was twice elected as a Democrat the office remains partisan for the purposes of the appointment. Under the county charter, they say the council must choose an auditor from among three finalists the party submitted last week.

But the Republican council majority came to a different conclusion. Last month the council approved a nonpartisan process and established the committee that recommended the three finalists.

Two of the three finalists – McEntee and Shabro – are Republicans. Blinn is the only candidate recommended by the Democrats to make the cut.

Pierce County Democratic Chairman Nathe Lawver said Wednesday the party will file a lawsuit by next week challenging the council’s appointment process.

Councilman Roger Bush, R-Graham, chaired the selection committee. Other members included Councilwoman Barbara Gelman, D-Tacoma, and three local nonpartisan elected officials: Lakewood’s Thomas, Steilacoom Mayor Ron Lucas and University Place Councilwoman Lorna Smith.

Bush noted the committee’s recommendations were unanimous.

"It was obvious everybody was intent on moving the best candidates forward," he said.

Pierce County
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