Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson resigns

Commissioner Kelly Emerson, at left, announces her resignation Friday. Commissioner Jill Johnson is pictured at right. - Janis Reid / Whidbey News-Times
Commissioner Kelly Emerson, at left, announces her resignation Friday. Commissioner Jill Johnson is pictured at right.
— image credit: Janis Reid / Whidbey News-Times

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson stunned many by announcing her resignation Monday.

Emerson gave a one-week notice just seven months shy of finishing her term.

Her resignation came after a heated meeting that highlighted tensions that have long existed within the board.

She announced in December her decision not to run for reelection at the end of this year.

"I will delightfully relinquish the title at the end of the week and head off to greener pastures," Emerson said. "Thank you so much for the opportunity, it has really truly been an honor."

Emerson, the District no. 3 commissioner, was often absent or non-participatory at public meetings, abstaining from votes and simply remaining silent at times.

After she was named the chairwoman of the board last year, she was soon stripped of that title after the other two commissioners questioned her work ethic, ability to lead and willingness to proceed according to board consensus.

Emerson also sued Island County twice over an unissued building permit to place a deck on her Camano Island home.

"I'm really sorry for those of you that hoped that we would further our cause and be more effective in right-sizing Island County but there's always tomorrow," Emerson said.

Just after announcing her resignation during commissioner comments, Emerson excused herself before the other commissioners had a chance to speak.

"You don't want to hear what we have to say?" said Commissioner Jill Johnson.

"I never have," Emerson said.

"Thank you for saying it into the record," Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said.

After Emerson's departure Johnson and Helen Price Johnson made their own announcements and then commented on Emerson's announcement.

"I'm sorry for her, I'm sorry for this county, community," Johnson said. "We are all hopeful that everybody finds this job rewarding and worthwhile. I know there's some disappointment out there as well."

Johnson said she was disappointed that she and fellow Republican Emerson were not able to work more smoothly together since Johnson was elected in 2012.

"I know she was hopeful that her remaining two years here would feel different, and I understand that," Johnson said.

"I'm sad it ended this way for her."

Johnson said she believes it would be the best next step for the county to move forward and "engage in business in usual."

Price Johnson said she was taken by surprise by Emerson's announcement, but added that it will be a welcome change.

"I have whiplash today," Price Johnson said. "We're up for a transition. What she's been consistent about is being as disruptive as possible and today is no different."

Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider said that once Emerson submits a letter of resignation, Johnson will notify the Island County Republican Party in writing that there will be a vacancy on the commission.

The commissioners have approximately two months to complete the process and fill the board vacancy, according to Johnson.

The party will send a request for brief biographies which will be considered by about 40 precinct committee officers, said Tim Geist, chairman of the Island County Republican Party.

The top candidates will be brought in for a committee meeting for interviews, Geist said, and then the top three names will be sent to the county commission for selection.

Three Republican candidates and one Democrat have announced plans to run for the Emerson's seat in November.

Those interested in filling Emerson's seat may contact the Island County Republican Party via its website at

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