Sixteen individuals made their oaths of office Dec. 28 ahead of a year where most of those sworn in will decide potential changes to Clark County government.
Newly-elected members of both the Clark County Charter Review Commission and Clark County Council were sworn in during a virtual ceremony, following successful campaigns in November.
New Clark County Councilor Karen Dill Bowerman took her oath of office after a successful campaign where she defeated both incumbent John Blom in the August primary, and Democratic challenger Jesse James in the general election.
“I can thank people until there’s no tomorrow,” Bowerman remarked after taking her oath. Bowerman took first place in the August primary with 44.3 percent of the vote, with James taking about 33.9 percent and Blom receiving about 21.6 percent. She won the general election by about 1,600 votes against James, taking about 51.3 percent of the total tally.
Bowerman, a Republican, replaces a former fellow member of the party, Blom, who ran with no party preference this year. Though initially elected as a Republican, Blom had been a councilor who had often voted alongside fellow Republican councilor Julie Olson and Democrat Temple Lentz when decisions came to a 3-2 split. Council chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien and councilor Gary Medvigy would be in the minority on those votes, an example of which were on property tax levy increases in both the 2020 and 2021 budgets.
In her statement in the November elections pamphlet, Bowerman wrote that she “will vote against excessive taxation,” and in campaign mailers specifically stated she would be against voting in the maximum levy increases that had been approved in the past four years.
At the ceremony Bowerman said her oath of office marked a “line of demarcation” between the “rah-rah” campaigning phase to a more serious phase of serving constituents.
“I want you all to know that I am not only taking it serious, but I am very much looking forward to it,” Bowerman remarked, noting work began the following week. Acknowledging the challenges faced in 2020, she remarked that “thankfully” 2021 would be different than the year prior.
Following Bowerman’s oath of office, the 15 members of the Clark County Charter Review Commission were sworn in Dec. 28. The commission is tasked with making recommendations for changes to the Clark County Charter, the county’s governing document.
Approved by voters in 2014, the charter changed the then Clark County Commission to a council-manager form of government, where legislative and executive powers are split between the council and manager, respectively.
Those sworn in include a number of individuals who either currently or previously worked or represented in government in Clark County. The commissioners who took their oath of office were:
Doug Lasher, former 34-year Clark County Treasurer
Eric Holt, former candidate for Clark County Council Chair
Mike Dalesandro, former Battle Ground Mayor and current city councilor
Council District 1 Commissioners:
Kim D. Harless
Council District 2:
Chuck Green, Clark County Commission on Aging Chair,
Kelsey Potter, Clark County Parks Advisory Board Co-chair
Dorothy Gasque, Clark County Democratic Party Treasurer and former Congressional candidate
Council District 3:
Council District 4:
Deanna Rusch, former Camas City Councilor
Liz Pike, former Washington State Representative and Camas City Councilor
Any changes recommended by the commission would eventually be up to voters to approve or deny on an election ballot.
Though they would not be involved with the recommendation process, candidates for Clark County Council were asked in candidate forums about one potential change in particular, that of changing the currently-appointed role of Clark County Manager to an elected position. Bowerman was clear that she favored maintaining the position as an appointed one, explaining that continuity “not subject to the election process” was important for the position, she said during one forum. She added that qualifications, the necessity to fundraise for campaigns and accountability for the position also played into her stance.