Hyer to take on county treasurer job

Olympia Mayor Pro Tem Joe Hyer will add a new title March 1: Thurston County treasurer.

County commissioners informally chose Hyer on Tuesday to succeed Robin Hunt, who is leaving office to take a new job before the expiration of her four-year term Dec. 31.

Commissioners can’t make the formal appointment until Hunt leaves office, but they took the step of naming Hyer early to ease the coming transition.

County commissioners have scheduled Hyer’s formal appointing and swearing-in ceremony for 11 a.m. March 1, when Hunt officially leaves office.

Hyer said he would remain on the City Council during the appointment period but would reassess the situation if voters elected him to the post in November.

“I think I can do both jobs well for a time, but not forever,” he said.

Hyer said he was excited about the new job and planned to meet with Hunt today and Thursday to introduce himself to his new staff and begin learning the details of the job, which pays $105,276 a year. He earns $18,304 a year as the mayor pro tem.

The pending appointment adds to Hyer’s responsibilities as an elected official and the co-owner of two downtown Olympia businesses, The Alpine Experience and Olympic Outfitters.

He said his council schedule is flexible, noting that other council members have full-time jobs. He said he’d be out of the office Tuesday afternoons to prepare for council meetings those evenings. State law doesn’t bar a person from holding two unrelated public offices.

He said he has freed himself from managing the day-to-day duties of his businesses.

In addition, Hyer will run for a four-year term as county treasurer that starts next year. He said the campaign’s kickoff will be in early March and that it has begun to raise money.

Asked whether Hyer’s other responsibilities were a factor in her decision, county commission chairwoman Sandra Romero said she’s not in a position to say what workload Hyer can handle.

“He hasn’t had a chance to prove himself,” she said.

Romero noted three reasons Hyer was appointed: he was “absolutely qualified” for the job; he was the top pick of the Thurston County Democratic Party; and he was endorsed by Hunt. Hyer is treasurer of the Thurston County Democratic Party and chairman of the City Council’s finance committee.

The state constitution requires the political party that an elected official is affiliated with to forward the names of three nominees to the county commissioners, which was done last month.

The party’s second pick, Noah Crocker, had noted his experience managing two state programs that issue tax-exempt debt so state agencies can buy equipment and property. He also told party leaders that “this is a full-time job that requires a full-time treasurer,” suggesting Hyer would be taking on too much.

Crocker said Tuesday that he was disappointed with the commissioners’ decision. He said he was qualified for the job and hadn’t decided whether he’d run for the office this fall.

Heather Highmiller, the third nominee, wasn’t a serious candidate. She only provided the third name mandated by the state constitution.

Bill Pilkey, a certified financial planner and the president of the Thurston County Taxpayers’ Association, which promotes fiscal responsibility and honesty in government, has announced his candidacy for the post.

The most visible job of the county treasurer is to bill, collect and distribute property taxes; Hyer’s ascension occurs as property tax payments start flowing into the office. The treasurer also receives state and federal dollars allocated to local governments and invests some public money.

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427