Longtime auditor Flynn gets proper sendoff

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After a week of tributes, Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn’s retirement was commemorated with a lighthearted sendoff March 28 that drew municipal, county and state dignitaries.

This along with a special out-of-state guest, when Los Angeles Interim Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan, a former Flynn employee, Kitsap County Clerk and King County elections director, appeared to pay tribute to his former boss and mentor.

“I cut my teeth as a public servant when I worked for Karen,” Logan said. “She made it clear that public service extends beyond the legal responsibilities. This may be participating in a career walk, a car wash or a fundraiser for hospice. She showed me how to make the community a better place to live, and I hope I can continue to do that in my career.”

During the tributes in the county building, Flynn’s good nature and sweet demeanor was discussed in detail.

Yes, she was “sweet” on the surface, but she was also skilled in getting her point across. One speaker called her an “iron butterfly.”

“Everyone talks about how sweet Karen is,” said Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed. “But she is also very tough. You can’t push her around. She really fights for what she believes in.”

Reed said that Flynn was instrumental in establishing the vote-by-mail system, which increases participation and results in a more informed voting public.

Former North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen told of pointed, yet good-natured, disagreements that she had with Flynn.

“When I first became a commissioner, I was required to serve on the canvassing board,” Endresen said. “This was where we met to decide the voter intent, what people meant when they were unable to connect the two ends of an arrow.”

“I was frustrated,” she said, “and became flip. I thought that if you can’t figure out how to connect the arrow, then you shouldn’t be able to vote. But Karen made it clear that there is nothing in the law that says you have to be intelligent in order to vote.”

Endresen recalled a disagreement she had with Flynn about voting by mail, one that Endresen lost.

“We all think Karen is sweet, kind and soft-spoken,” Endresen said. “But she can be terribly fierce. You have not seen anything until you have tried to get between Karen and her fantastic belief in the rights of the voter. And you don’t want to be across the table from her when she leans over and says ‘Chris, I am really disappointed in you.’”

Master of ceremonies (and Kitsap County Clerk) Dave Peterson, who may or may not have been paying attention to Endresen’s remarks, returned to the stage and said, “Everyone is saying such nice things about Karen, so I decided to try something,” Peterson said. “If you take all of the letters in her same and reverse them, remove the vowels and shift the consonants to the preceding letter, it spells ‘Mother Teresa.’”

State Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) could not attend, but sent a message she said was a paraphrase of Thomas Jefferson: “You can succeed Karen Flynn, but you cannot replace her.”

“Karen has a commitment to innovation,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer. “One thing that you can go to the bank on is the quality of work that is coming out of that office. She is entering an exciting chapter in her life, but she has left us with a quality department that none of us will have to worry about, and will continue on the same level of experience.”

Flynn said Monday that she planned to pursue interests in interior design and gardening during her retirement. She also planned to spend more time with her family. (Her three sisters, mother and son were among her family members who attended the event).

Three candidates, Chief Deputy Auditor Walt Washington, Poulsbo attorney Sara Lingafelter and former county administrative services director are under consideration as Flynn’s successor. All three have met individually with the county commissioners, who will meet to determine a replacement.

Washington was selected as Flynn’s replacement by the commissioners and will serve until the next election.

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