Grays Harbor Democrat PCOs in attendance were addressed on Thursday night by candidates looking to fill the seat of former Grays Harbor County Auditor Vern Spatz.
Spatz retired from the office on August 31, with the Grays Harbor County Commissioners announcing that Chief Deputy Auditor Melinda Raihl would serve as a temporary replacement until the office is filled.
As part of the regular process, following an opening in an elected office, the local party in which that candidate identifies with will present 3 names to County Commissioners for a replacement until the end of the current term.
At the start of the regular Grays Harbor Democrats meeting, the only candidates who had expressed public interested in the position were Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff, Montesano School Board Member Chris Thomas, and Joesph MacLean, who identifies as a Republican.
Following nominations, 4 names were presented as options.
Prior to the nominations at Thursday’s meeting; a standing question for all nominees was identified as;
“Why are you a Democrat?”
Katie Svoboda nominated the first candidate in Thomas.
Thomas said when outlining his intent;
“This is something that I have been preparing for quite awhile.”
Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel nominated Ruth Kivi, who had previously been nominated by PCOs to replace former Grays Harbor County Coroner Dan Burns in 2014.
Kivi said that the office of Auditor is perceived as a financial position, but she believes that each office under the Auditor is ran by” very competent people” and she hoped to serve as the administrative role.
Former Commissioner Al Carter nominated Dickhoff, highlighting her career serving within multiple facets of the Hoquiam city council and now as Mayor.
Dickhoff spoke about the importance of engaging with voters, informing the public, and finding ways to do this on little to no extra funding. She also said that she currently has a very good relationship with the County Commissioners, and she feels that would be an asset.
Joesph MacLean nominated himself for the position. MacLean told the PCOs about his experience with the Okanagan Auditor’s Office, before moving to the Secretary of States Office as a “liaison” with local elections departments.
MacLean said that he is already familiar with all parts of the office, saying he is ready to “hit the ground running”.
When referring to the standing question, he stated;
“I’m not a Democrat for one particular reason. I do not feel the need to take money from someone who earned it and give it to another person.”
Following nominations, the PCOs were able to ask questions of the potential Auditors, with many questions seemingly directed at MacLean.
PCO Vini Samuel asked MacLean what other political office or elected officials he has held, and questioned his statement regarding” giving his money away”.
MacLean said that he was a member of the Okanagan Elks, although he has not held an elected office.
On the second question, he said that he feels he has “pulled himself up by the bootstraps” and regularly donates to civic groups.
“I believe that I should be able to give money to who I choose to.”
Each nominee had an opportunity to answer every question, regardless of who it may be directed at.
Kivi stated that she doesn’t feel giving money to schools
Dickhoff states she was appointed, elected and reelected to City Council before being elected Mayor, and worked with the AWC and other groups. She said that following AmeriCorps training, she has recorded over 4000 volunteer hours since she was 17.
Thomas spoke on his role with the School Board and Montesano Planning Commission, as well as his church and community groups.
When asked how Thomas and Dickhoff would handle their current elected positions and the Auditor role, Dickhoff stated that taking this role would “actually give me more time to handle Mayoral duties”. Thomas stated that his role as a volunteer school board seat is something that he could do as well as the Auditor’s role, but if it became a conflict he would resign from the school.
Following a blind vote, the Grays Harbor Democrat PCOs chose, in order of priority;
Democrat Chair Steven Steven Puvogel told KXRO that they are happy with their selection.
The Grays Harbor County Commissioners will be presented with the local parties choices, and could announce their decision as early as Monday, September 11.
Maclean has already filed with the Public Disclosure Commission as a candidate for the 2018 election.
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