Thurston County Commission chair Cathy Wolfe announced Wednesday that she will retire at the end of her fourth term in December 2016, and not seek re-election. She said she wanted to announce early so that potential candidates could make campaign plans.
“Working with the citizens of Thurston County has been a pleasure and a very rewarding experience for me, and I am very proud of our accomplishments over the past 22 years,” Wolfe, 70, said in a statement that was sent to county employees and elected officials. “But this is simply a time in my life when I want to travel, relax and enjoy my grandchildren and my wonderful family.”
The Democrat was elected to the Thurston County Board of County Commissioners in 2000, after serving eight years as a state legislator. Among Wolfe’s accomplishments listed in the news release about her retirement: She served as chairwoman of the Thurston County HOME Consortium for five years, voted to approve the creation of the county’s Treatment Sales Tax in 2009 and was instrumental in working with community leaders to create Quixote Village, a community of cottages that serves homeless adults.
Wolfe also has been a staunch supporter of the county’s controversial jail, the Accountability and Restitution Center, which has sat empty since 2010 due to budget woes. The facility is expected to open soon, although county officials won’t provide a specific date due to security issues.
“It’s the best thing we’ve ever done,” Wolfe told an Olympian reporter in 2012. “The jail had to be replaced for the sake of the jail alone …this will keep as many people out of that jail as possible with programs and problem-solving courts.”
Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza described Wolfe as an icon for public service.
“We’re definitely going to miss her,” he said. “She’s very passionate about helping out the community.”
In a news release, Wolfe said she’s looking forward to the last 18 months of her term.
“I plan to finish stronger than ever,” she said.
The county’s other two commissioners are Sandra Romero, a Democrat, and Bud Blake, an independent who defeated an incumbent Democrat in last fall’s election.
Besides Wolfe’s retirement, more changes could be on the way to the three-member commission. Supporters of “Better Thurston,” a campaign to establish a county charter and create a five-member county council and elected county executive, have been collecting signatures on a petition for about a month. They hope to get enough signatures to get an initiative on the November 2016 ballot that would call for the election of a Board of Freeholders.
The Board of Freeholders would draft a new form of government that would go before voters during a later election.
Wolfe was a Thurston County Freeholder in 1990, when a similar effort was underway.