County treasurer won't finish term

Thurston County Treasurer Robin Hunt has accepted a new job and will not finish her term, which ends in December 2010.

Her announcement Wednesday appears to boost Olympia City Councilman Joe Hyer’s chances of landing the job, at least on an interim basis.

Hunt, 55, earlier had said she would not run for a fourth four-year term. She said Wednesday that she had planned to retire, then learned of the job opportunity through contacts at the state, her former employer.

Hunt didn’t say when her last day will be, but she expects it will be about March 1.

Electronic Transaction Consultants of Richardson, Texas, hired her as the finance manager for its tolling operations in Washington.

Her announcement comes the same day the Washington State Department of Transportation said it had signed a contract with the company to establish and operate a new statewide customer-service center for toll operations.

The company will provide customer service for the Good to Go! electronic tolling program in addition to payment processing, violation collections and business management. It will take over customer service for tolling on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, State Route 167 high-occupancy toll lanes and, beginning in spring 2011, the State Route 520 floating bridge.

“This is a very exciting opportunity to be part of a new and growing process in transportation management,” Hunt wrote in the letter she sent to the county commissioners announcing her pending resignation. “I am lucky to be able to do what I most enjoy – working at the intersection of public service and private enterprise providing strong accounting system design and implementation.”

The five-year contract, valued at about $23 million, was signed Dec. 23. ETC was selected from among five bidders, according to WSDOT. The contract begins Jan. 11. ETC’s systems collect about one-third of all toll transactions in the United States, it said.

Hunt’s primary job as county treasurer is to receive, hold and distribute money owed to county government. The post is a partisan position; Hunt is a Democrat.

Hyer, a local businessman who won re-election to his council seat in November, confirmed last week that he would run for Hunt’s post next year. There is no legal restriction for Hyer to hold the two elected offices at the same time.

The state constitution outlines the process to appoint the person to complete Hunt’s term. Thurston County commissioners would appoint one of three nominees whose names are forwarded by the Thurston County Democrats. A party representative was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The general election in November would determine who holds the office starting in 2011.

Hyer is the treasurer for the Thurston County Democrats. He also has been deeply involved with the city’s budgeting process serving on the City Council and has been the chairman of the city’s Finance Committee since 2007.

Hunt said she met with Hyer several weeks ago after he had expressed interest in the job. She said she didn’t tell Hyer that she might not complete her term. Hyer said he first learned of Hunt’s intentions Wednesday afternoon.

Hyer said he would seek the appointment and acknowledged his party ties could give him a leg up in securing it. But he stressed that he has the credentials for the job and expressed hope that the party “is looking for the person with the right skill set.”

In her letter to commissioners, Hunt recommended that they appoint Steve Larson, a senior manager in her office, if there is any delay between her resignation and the appointment of her temporary successor.

Hunt was appointed as county treasurer in January 1997 and elected to the post that fall.

She expected that the transition period would be smooth because “my current employees have strong skills in the treasury functions and work well as a team to both get the daily work done and resolve issues as they arise.”

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427