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Here’s which Whatcom County department heads are seeking re-election

How to fill out your Whatcom County ballot

Ballots for the Aug. 1 primary election were mailed to voters in Whatcom County July 11. Only races with three candidates are on this ballot. The top two finishers from each race, along with pairs of candidates for other offices, will appear on th
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Ballots for the Aug. 1 primary election were mailed to voters in Whatcom County July 11. Only races with three candidates are on this ballot. The top two finishers from each race, along with pairs of candidates for other offices, will appear on th

Whatcom County’s 2019 election will include a number of newcomers, as key county administrators and Bellingham’s mayor have opted to not run for re-election.

Sheriff Bill Elfo and Treasurer Steven Oliver are running for re-election, but County Executive Jack Louws, Auditor Debbie Adelstein and Assessor Keith Wilnauer are not running.

In Bellingham, Councilwoman Pinky Vargas and builder Garrett O’Brien have filed to replace Mayor Kelli Linville, who announced in early February that she won’t seek re-election after her second term.

O’Brien, who is founder of the development firm Volonta Corp., is also a member of the Bellingham Planning and Development Commission.

The state Public Disclosure Commission already lists these candidates for the Aug. 6 primary for Whatcom County offices:

Auditor: Diana Bradrick of Bellingham. She is the Whatcom County chief deputy auditor and is supported by the current auditor.

Assessor: John Romaker of Bellingham. He is the chief deputy assessor and is supported by the current assessor.

County executive: Karen Burke of Bellingham. Burke is executive director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County and was the director of the Lummi Nation Tribal Court.

Filing period for the August “top two” primary is May 13-17.

Of the county’s six elected department heads, “I’m kind of the last man standing here on the first floor of the County Courthouse,” Oliver said in an interview.

That sixth official is Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey, who was elected in 2018 to succeed David McEachran, who retired after 43 years in office.

Both Elfo — whose office is in the adjacent jail building — and Oliver cited issues surrounding the county’s previously stated need for a new jail as one reason they want to remain in their jobs.

“We’ve got a lot of exciting things to do, especially making improvements to mental health and substance abuse programs, “ Elfo told The Bellingham Herald in an interview. “Absolutely. I fully intend to run.”

Elfo was elected in November 2003 to the four-year nonpartisan post and has been re-elected three times.

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Whatcom County Treasurer Steven Oliver is running for re-election. Mark Turner Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Oliver said he wants to make sure that Whatcom County keeps its good credit rating should the need arise to borrow funds for a new jail.

Moody’s credit rating agency gives Whatcom County a score of Aa2, a step higher than the Aa3 that’s average for local governments.

“This really isn’t specific to my office, but the jail is still a significant issue for the county,” he said in an interview. “My experience could help the county sort through some of the options.”

Oliver said the county is carrying little debt.

“What we started to work on in the background is making sure that we had all the policy in place in case the county has to borrow money for (jail) construction and maintain its credit rating to borrow at the lowest rate possible,” Oliver said.

He was elected in November 2007 to the four-year nonpartisan post, after serving nine years as chief deputy treasurer, and has been re-elected twice.

The filing period was corrected Feb. 26, 2019.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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