Commissioners to set timeline for filling Stuart's seat

Mielke, Madore meeting Wednesday, two days before Stuart's last official day

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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With Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart’s last official day on the board less than a week away, the clock has started ticking more loudly on appointing a successor.

Commissioners Tom Mielke and David Madore, both Republicans, are expected to lay out a timeline at their next board time meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, on how they plan to replace their Democratic colleague.

Stuart’s last official day on the board of commissioners is Friday, and his first day as Ridgefield’s city manager is April 14.

Commissioners Mielke and Madore plan to consult with the county’s chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney, Chris Horne, to discuss what’s required of them before Wednesday’s meeting.

For those with an interest in the board’s future, the timing of the appointment remains an intriguing question without an answer, particularly because the incumbent’s term expires at the end of the year. The appointment will likely take place after the filing deadline to run for office, scheduled for the week of May 12 through May 16.

Democrats say that puts them in a bind and could allow the two Republican commissioners to appoint the Democrats’ weakest candidate.

Mielke and Madore didn’t respond to inquiries Friday. By law, the commissioners have 60 days from the time of Stuart’s vacancy to appoint a replacement of the same party from a list provided to them by the party.

Clark County Democrats have compiled a list of three candidates interested in seeking Stuart’s vacant seat. But only one has both expressed interest in running and has the backing of the other two names on the list.

There are also Republicans interested in giving the Democrats a run at the office come November, said Kenny Smith, Chair of the Clark County Republicans, but none has announced an intention to run yet.

Democrat Craig Pridemore, a former Clark County commissioner and state senator, said he’ll file to run, whether he’s appointed or not. Among the Democrats’ list of three, he’s the only one to expressly say he’ll take a shot at the election. Kelly Love Parker, the executive director of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, and Ed Barnes, a retired labor leader, are also in the running for the appointment.

Love Parker had expressed interest in running an election campaign but said Friday that Pridemore would be the best candidate and she would not run against him, even if commissioners appointed her.

“Looking forward,” she said, “I won’t file to run if there’s a strong candidate ready to run.”

Pridemore said he had no interest in running against Love Parker, either. But, with Love Parker’s support, he’s going to throw his name into the ring.

His campaign will focus on creating an open and transparent government and ending divisive politics, he said, two things he said have been lacking from the board as of late.

It’s a shift in strategy for the Clark County Democrats. Party leadership had originally suggested they would expect each of the three prospective candidates to file to run. Barnes, an outspoken critic of the board, said that while he wholeheartedly supported Pridemore, he would also likely file to run because he doesn’t expect the commissioners to make an appointment until June.

“They will use the 60 days, as far as I know,” Barnes said.