Secretary of state-elect goes local for aides

bshannon@theolympian.comDecember 8, 2012 

Secretary of State-elect Kim Wyman has plucked top deputies from the Thurston and Pierce county auditor’s offices to serve as her top administrative and elections staffers.

Wyman, now the Thurston County auditor, will become the state’s 15th secretary of state on Jan. 16. She announced Friday that she is naming her current chief deputy auditor, Ken Raske, as assistant secretary of state, while appointing Pierce County’s chief deputy auditor, Lori Augino, to serve as state elections director.

Wyman also is hiring Mark Neary, the central services director for Thurston County, as her deputy secretary of state.

Wyman beat out Democrat Kathleen Drew in a relatively close race that extended the GOP’s hold on the Secretary of State’s Office to more than 50 years. Incumbent Secretary of State Sam Reed, who preceded Wyman as Thurston auditor, has served 12 years.

“I am eager to begin — building on the culture of excellence that Sam and his predecessors brought so successfully to the citizens of Washington,” Wyman said in a prepared statement. “We will be looking for creative and cost-effective ways to continue innovating and serving the voters and our customers. ”

Her personnel moves include moving Reed’s longtime assistant secretary Steve Excell into the state archivist’s job, ousting the incumbent Jerry Handfield, who is the only employee leaving the agency as a result of the shake-up.

“Initially I was planning on retiring at the end of 2013,” Handfield said Friday. “Yesterday, she (Wyman) moved the timetable up to Jan. 15. It was a surprise, let’s put it that way.’’

Wyman said she was looking for someone to serve out the four-year term or longer.

Handfield had worked for three Indiana governors until Reed hired him in 2001 to organize and build the nation’s first digital archives in Cheney.

He expressed no rancor and described Excell as an avid genealogist, crediting him with shepherding the project management of the digital archives project.

Excell shrugged off his apparent step down from No. 2 in the agency to taking charge of the state’s records business, including the underground archives in Olympia.

“I think with transition, change comes. I’ve been in the same position for 12 years,’’ Excell said, adding that he has a background in archives, having filled in after the state archivist died in 2001 and before Handfield was hired.

Wyman also is putting both state elections co-directors into new jobs. Katie Blinn will become assistant policy director, and Shane Hamlin is being named assistant director of voter services, which Wyman said is a role that plays to Hamlin’s strengths with data systems.

Wyman said she wanted a single elections manager. She said she hired Augino because of her strong reputation for handling elections in Pierce County, including two instant-runoff elections.

Pam Floyd is remaining as director of corporations and charities, as is the state library’s acting librarian Rand Simmons.

Reed’s communications director, David Ammons, is staying on in an enhanced role as director of communications, policy and legislative affairs. Ammons is the former longtime Associated Press correspondent who covered the Capitol for more than 30 years.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 @BradShannon2

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