Familiar names taking lead in selection of freeholders

Many of them support bigger commission, county executive

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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It appears the board of Clark County freeholders should get ready to talk it out.

If Tuesday night's results for 15 freeholder positions stand, then it appears every major talking point in a new county charter — an expanded board of commissioners, an elected county executive, and the powers of initiative and referendum — will be much discussed.

The new board of nonpartisan freeholders will soon have the power to propose changes to the county government, as long as they follow the laws of the state and abide by the U.S. Constitution. The document will then be returned to voters for final approval.

Of the 15 Tuesday night leaders, 12 responded to a questionnaire submitted by The Columbian requesting their opinions on issues to be faced in the creation of a new county charter.

Of those 12 individuals, four said they support expanding the size of the board of commissioners, which currently has three members. Eight respondents said they were open to discussion on the matter. None of the respondents said they were against the idea.

The issue of a county executive received much the same response, with six respondents favoring an elected county executive position and six stating they are undecided on the matter. Again, none of the respondents said they were against the idea of an elected executive.

And it appears even the topic of granting county voters the powers of initiative and referendum — powers granted in all six current charter counties — will be talked about as six respondents favor granting those powers, four said they are considering it and two stand against the idea.

Name recognition

Several of Tuesday night's leaders sport some amount of brand recognition from other political endeavors.

Among the leading vote-getters are Republican Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas; state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center; former state Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield; former Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen; state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas; former Camas Mayor Paul Dennis; former Republican Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt; former Vancouver City Councilor Pat Jollota; former state Rep. Val Ogden, D-Vancouver, and state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver.

Also on the list of leaders are Tracy Wilson, the husband of current Clark County Republican Party Chairwoman Lynda Wilson; Temple Lentz, the author of a satirical political blog; and Jim Mains, a contributor to a local video blog.

Still close

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said with perhaps 30,000 ballots left to count that no race is absolutely safe.

"I think those in the lead can be cautiously optimistic," Kimsey said. "But this is uncharted territory and we have no precedent for it."

While there are extra ballots, it is unclear how many of those ballots will actually have votes cast for freeholder candidates. Each of the 15 races saw between 16 and 25 percent of the freeholder ballots left blank.

Among the closest races are District 1, Position 4 where Chris Lockwood leads Peter Silliman by 172 votes, District 1, Position 5 where Randy Mueller leads Patricia Reyes by 88 votes, and District 2, Position 2 where Tracy Wilson leads Lloyd Halverson by 369 votes.

The board

Kimsey has also spearheaded the Team ClarkForward group, which along with Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, is seeking a larger board of commissioners and an elected county executive position in a new charter.

Kimsey said he was "very, very pleased" with the results on Tuesday night, adding it appears "a lot of great people have been elected."