Wise choice in Wyman’s replacement

February 5, 2013 

The Thurston County Commission made the right choice in selecting Deputy Auditor Gary Alexander to fill the vacancy created by former auditor Kim Wyman’s election as Secretary of State.

With 12 years of experience as the deputy auditor for finance, 25 years as a budget and program manager with the state, and 10 years as a chief financial officer and industrial engineer in the private sector, Alexander is exceptionally qualified for the job.

It might be argued the commission had no choice but to pick Alexander, because real estate agent Carol Person’s experience paled in comparison. Person, or Yelm Mayor Ron Hardin, who withdrew his application for the position, might have learned the job in time, but the commissioners didn’t have that luxury.

They needed someone who knew the auditor’s office intimately and could, as they said, hit the ground running. That’s because Wyman raided her former department in making appointments to her new secretary of state office.

Alexander will inherit a department without deputies to assist him.

But he nevertheless gives Thurston County its best chance to maintain the auditor’s office reputation as one of the finest in the state. It’s a status earned, in part, by former auditors Wyman and Sam Reed who both moved on to become secretaries of state.

But Alexander’s appointment also raises a question.

The native Washingtonian and 40-year resident of Thurston County is currently serving his eighth term in the state House. He now represents Legislative District 2, but was first elected in 1996 to serve the 20th District.

Will he resign his legislative seat if elected to the county auditor position next November? Other South Sound legislators have held two elected positions, most notably Sen. Tim Sheldon, who also sits on the Mason County Commission.

There’s no law prohibiting holding two posts, and legislative offices are considered a part-time occupation. In fact, most state lawmakers hold down other full-time jobs, if they aren’t retired or independently wealthy.

Alexander won’t have to face that question until next fall. But he should state his intentions clearly, so voters can make an informed choice.

Meanwhile, the commission has placed the county auditor’s office in capable hands.

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