Thurston County Commission chairwoman Sandra Romero has announced that she won’t seek re-election in the fall.
Romero has represented District 2 — which includes Lacey, Yelm and Rainier and the eastern portion of Thurston County — since 2009. After finishing out her second term in December, she said she plans to travel with her husband, Fred Romero, a retired Washington State Parks employee, and spend more time with their family.
“I’m not going away,” Romero said in a news release. “I will continue to serve our community and work to protect the environment we all want our children and grandchildren to cherish.”
Romero said she hasn’t endorsed anyone yet for her seat.
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Last July, Thurston County Commission vice chairwoman Cathy Wolfe announced that she’ll also retire at the end of her term in December. Olympia City Council member Jim Cooper already has begun campaigning for Wolfe’s District 1 seat.
District 3 Commissioner Bud Blake, an independent, is serving his first term. His seat doesn’t expire until 2018.
Before serving on the County Commission, Romero, 67, a Democrat, was a state legislator from 1993 to 2004. She also was a member of the Olympia City Council from 1989 to 1991.
Romero said she believes her monthly Coffee Chats, which are informal discussions on issues at locations in her district, helped make county government more open and accessible.
“The chats have given me insights into my district and rural Thurston County that I could not have gained staying at my desk in the county courthouse,” she said. “Citizens of Thurston County currently have a government that responds to their needs, a staff that is as professional as any other public employees with whom I have worked. Most importantly, citizens can be assured the county has a fiscal base with which to grow and continue to provide needed services.”
Among accomplishments listed in a news release about Romero’s retirement: “Protecting our environment, preserving our history, and maintaining a quality of life unique to Thurston County are my most pleasurable accomplishments,” she said. “Olympia’s Main Street program, creation of Heritage Park, involvement in the development and opening of our countywide trail system, protecting animals from abuse, and the creation of the county’s off-leash dog park make me proud.”
George Sharp, former executive director of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau, worked closely with Romero on the county’s agritourism efforts, which included designation of the Bountiful Byway. The nearly 60-mile loop skirts the county and features nearly 100 suggested agricultural, ecological and cultural stops for visitors.
“She was level-headed and she would listen to people before forming her personal opinion on how to govern,” he recalled. “And I think it’s lucky to have that in elected officials.”
Sharp, who now operates a consulting firm with his wife, said Romero’s replacement will have some big issues to address.
“I think one of the key issues is going to continue to be what’s going on with the Mazama pocket gopher and what land regulation is taking place and how that’s going to affect development,” he said.