Vaughan named interim Island County commissioner, wants to fix 'disconnnect'

Aubrey Vaughan will fill the District 3 seat until the November election. - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Aubrey Vaughan will fill the District 3 seat until the November election.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

As interim Island County commissioner, Aubrey Vaughan said Thursday he wants to rebuild the connection between Camano and Whidbey islands and help the county through this year’s budget process.

“One of the reasons I’m running is I feel there’s been a disconnect,” Vaughan said. “I promise to restore that.”

As the board begins its annual budget cycle, Vaughan said putting together a budget, which is usually adopted in the fall, is going to be one of his primary duties.

“This budget cycle is going to very important,” he said.

After interviewing three candidates at a special session Tuesday, Commissioners Jill Johnson and Helen Price Johnson deliberated for approximately 15 minutes in closed session before voting to appoint Vaughan as interim Island County commissioner for District 3.

Vaughan, who lives on Camano Island, was a member of the Island County Law and Justice Council, a seat he will relinquish during his commissioner service.

The District 3 seat was vacated in May when Commissioner Kelly Emerson, a Republican, resigned seven months short of her term’s end. Emerson gave one week’s notice.

In accordance with state law in such circumstances, Island County Republicans selected three candidates to be interviewed by the commissioners to fill the seat until the next election.

Marc Hennemann of Camano and Richard Hannold of North Whidbey were also nominated by the Republican party and interviewed by the commissioners.

Vaughan will fill the position until the November’s general election. At that time, a permanent commissioner will be chosen by voters.

Four Republicans and one Democrat have filed to run for the seat.

District 3 comprises North Whidbey and Camano Island.

“I think the commissioners did a spectacular job getting through this,” Vaughan said. “This is not something that happens every day. It’s tough because they are having to pick one guy from three who are all good people.”

Price Johnson and Johnson said they selected Vaughan because of his experience serving on the Law and Justice Council.

“He can hit the ground running,” Johnson said.

While the decision was tough, Johnson said she tried to prioritize what was good for Island County as opposed to her own preferences.

“It is difficult to tap one to sit up here and leave two others to sit in the audience,” Johnson said. “It has been challenging for me to think through the difference between the action I take as a commissioner and the way I would vote as an individual with my own private ballot.”

Price Johnson said she had a “level of discomfort” about having to choose a fellow commissioner when ballots are going out in a few weeks. She blames Emerson and the former commissioner’s abrupt departure.

“In a few short weeks the ballots are going to go out and District 3 will be making their preference known,” Price Johnson said. “Two of the names that will appear on those ballots aren’t even available for us to consider. So none of us in this room created that situation. It was the outgoing commissioner who established this unfortunate timeline for us with her resignation.”

Price Johnson said that the board selection for an interim commissioner is in no way an endorsement for the November election.

“I want to make very clear that I don’t see this action today as an endorsement of any kind. We are charged with filling an opening and that’s the way that I’m approaching this decision,” Price Johnson said.

“I encourage folks to be engaged in the process get to know candidates.”

Vaughan echoed Price Johnson’s plea, saying that he was chosen to fill a short term need and that all candidates on the ballot should be considered by voters.


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