Port of Olympia Commissioner Sue Gunn’s decision to resign April 1, before the candidate filing deadline of May 15, means that her District 3 seat is up for grabs and will be on the ballot this fall, the Thurston County Auditor said Monday.
And that means voters will choose candidates in two port races because the District 1 seat, held by Commissioner George Barner, is also up for election.
The District 2 seat is held by Commissioner Bill McGregor.
A check of the state Public Disclosure Commission website Monday showed no other candidate filings for the District 1 race.
Meanwhile, commissioners Barner and McGregor still have to appoint someone from District 3, which includes west Olympia, Tumwater and south Thurston County, to fill Gunn’s seat.
And they have 90 days to do so, Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall said Monday.
That gives them until June 30 to make a decision. If they fail to do so by then, the decision falls to the Board of Thurston County Commissioners, which has until Sept. 28 to make the same decision. If the county commissioners can’t make a decision, then it falls to Gov. Jay Inslee.
But if the port commissioners appoint someone before the candidate deadline of May 15, that person will have to decide whether to run for the seat. If they choose not to run, they remain appointed to the seat until the general election has been certified, Hall said.
The same goes for someone appointed after the filing date: They hold the seat until the general election is certified, she said.
Meanwhile, the winner of the District 3 seat in the general election will complete the remainder of Gunn’s four-year term, and then will have to decide whether to run for a full term in 2017, Hall said.
The process was triggered after Gunn announced her resignation Friday. She had been absent from port commissioner meetings since she underwent open-heart surgery Dec. 18, although she was excused from those meetings between Nov. 24 and Feb. 16.
Gunn, in a letter to the port, explained that she expected to return to her commissioner duties within two months of her surgery, but then she encountered complications, including another hospitalization.
On Feb. 17, the port commission stopped excusing her from meetings. Under state law, if that had continued for 60 days, she would have lost her job April 18.
“There has been considerable pressure on me from the port, and from one of the commissioners, to return rapidly, which is not conducive to the extensive healing needed,” Gunn said in her resignation letter. “It’s necessary to take the time required to recover from this complex medical event.”
Although Commissioner Barner has tried to excuse Gunn since Feb. 17, McGregor did not support those motions. His argument has been that if something should happen to himself or Barner, then no port business could be conducted because of a lack of a quorum.