Pridemore, Lentz to seek Stuart's county seat

County commissioner will be appointed

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart was tapped to be Ridgefield’s city manager Thursday evening, setting in motion the process of naming his successor on the county board. Two Democrats -- Craig Pridemore and Temple Lentz -- confirmed today they are interested.

The appointment of a new face on the board will be left in the hands of the two remaining county commissioners, Tom Mielke and David Madore, both Republicans who have often butted heads with Stuart, a Democrat. According to law they’ll choose from a list of candidates provided by the Clark County Democrats.

The process of determining who among the party faithful might be interested in Stuart’s soon-to-open seat started well before Thursday. Stuart was already a lame duck before his hiring, announcing in January he didn’t intend to run for re-election.

Democrats will be looking beyond the immediate future. They want to present a list of candidates who are also interested in running later this year for a full four-year term.

“There’s been a lot of talk,” said Mike Heywood, chair of the Clark County Democrats. “I’ve got maybe four or five names that are fishing at the bait.”

A couple of names have made an early bid.

Pridemore announced his intention to seek appointment to the board in a statement to The Columbian Friday. Pridemore previously served as a county commissioner from 1999 to 2004, when he resigned to become a state senator. Stuart succeeded him on the board in 2004 by appointment.

Pridemore stepped away from his Senate seat in 2012 to run an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for state auditor.

Since 2013, Pridemore has served as the chief financial officer for the state Department of Licensing.

Lentz, a Clark County freeholder and Democratic precinct committee officer, announced on Facebook Thursday she intended to vie for Stuart’s spot.

“We need somebody to continue the work Steve has done,” Lentz said in an interview, “someone who will fight against cronyism, corruption and hypocrisy of the current board.”

Lentz also writes a political blog and works for High Five Media, a marketing firm that specializes in small political campaigns.

The Democratic central committee will interview candidates before paring them down and presenting a list to commissioners. Questions the committee will pose to candidates will revolve around whether they know how county government works, whether they’re in favor of the freeholder process and where they stand on county growth, among others, Heywood said.

Madore and Mielke will have 60 days after the vacancy to appoint a new commissioner. If they fail to act, the task will go to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

Stuart’s first day as Ridgefield’s city manager is scheduled to be April 14.