Chamber official to seek county commissioner job

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Kelly Love Parker, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, announced Saturday she is adding her name to the list of candidates to fill the county commissioner seat currently held by Steve Stuart.

Stuart, the lone Democrat on the three-person county board, was named Ridgefield's next city manager Thursday. Stuart's last day as county commissioner will be April 11.

Stuart's departure will leave the appointment of a new commissioner in the hands of the two remaining county commissioners, Republicans Tom Mielke and David Madore. The Clark County Democratic Party will present the commissioners with a list of candidates from which to choose a replacement.

Democrats Temple Lentz, a political activist and Clark County freeholder, and Craig Pridemore, a former county commissioner and state senator, confirmed on Friday they were seeking the appointment. Love Parker tossed her name into the hat Saturday.

Love Parker decided to seek the appointment because she was concerned about who would step forward to fill the important minority role on the commission. The county needs someone willing to put his or her own politics aside for the benefit of the county; someone who will work to restore the county's credibility, Love Parker said.

While two strong candidates have come forward, the party needs to present the commissioners with three quality candidates, she said.

"I do support Craig Pridemore. I believe he is the best candidate," Love Parker said. "But because we have to have three candidates and the commissioners get to choose, we better give them three good candidates."

The Democratic central committee will interview candidates before paring them down and presenting a list to commissioners. Madore and Mielke will have 60 days after the vacancy to appoint a new commissioner. If they fail to act, the task will fall to Gov. Jay Inslee.

If selected for the position, Love Parker said the chamber board will either accept her resignation or grant her an unpaid leave of absence to fill the county role. Should she be appointed, Love Parker plans to run to retain the seat in November.

Love Parker, 50, has led the nonprofit chamber of commerce's small staff and more than 1,000 business members for the past 3 1/2 years. From 2005 to 2010, Parker worked as Rep. Brian Baird's district director, overseeing district projects and managing staff. Prior to that, Love Parker worked for 22 years as a TV news reporter, including 15 years at KGW in Portland.

This is Love Parker's first run for political office.

"I don't like politics, but it's not necessary to like politics to be a good leader," Love Parker said. "In fact, it's good to have a certain disdain for politics, and I do."