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The Deciders

Okanogan County’s three commissioners, all Republicans, have extraordinary powers typically not granted to their state and federal counterparts. Wearing two hats, they have both legislative and executive authority. The votes of two commissioners can decide the business of the county’s 41,120 residents.

There is no county executive or county administrator in Okanogan County because it’s among 33 of the state’s 39 counties governed by the commissioner system. Six other Washington counties have chosen to operate under the so-called “home rule” charter. Of those six, only Clallam County has three elected commissioners who themselves appoint an administrator; the other five have independently elected county councils and also have an executive elected by voters. Among the nation’s 3,040 counties, Okanogan County’s commissioner form of governance is by far the most prevalent, according to a Municipal Research and Service Center of Washington study commissioned by the Washington State Legislature in 2007.

Okanogan’s commissioner governance model is the most democratic because it brings the government close to the people through independent election of government department heads such as assessor, treasurer and sheriff, according to arguments listed in favor of this model in the study. By independently electing multiple officials, voters get a system of checks and balances that reduces the opportunity for government corruption. And because commissioners have both legislative and executive authority, county government can be more responsive to citizens because commissioners have the power to directly implement the laws they enact.

Among arguments against the commissioner form of government are that it lacks accountability because responsibility for executive functions is diffused. The absence of a centralized executive authority, coupled with multiple independently-elected officials, interferes with administrative coordination and results in inefficient, ineffective service delivery. The increased complexity of county government requires more professionalism than can be provided by citizen legislators. Citizens cannot know all the officials they’re electing, and many officials are re-elected term after term without opposition, which concentrates the selection of officials in the hands of political parties and special interest groups, the study reported.

Okanogan County’s commissioners represent three districts but are elected by voters county-wide. The Methow Valley lies in District 2. The eastern part of the county is divided into District 1 in the south and District 3 in the north. Commissioners serve four-year terms. The terms of incumbents in District 1 and District 2, Andrew Lampe and Don “Bud” Hover, expire in 2012.  The commissioners set their own salaries, as well as those of other county officials, and are paid $59,640 per year, plus a monthly stipend for in-county transportation expenses.



(follow the links for full profiles)

photo of comissioner lampe
Lampe says state and federal incursions onto the county’s land base affect its growth and development patterns.



photo of commissioner hover
He became motivated to run for office after the National Marine Fisheries Service decided to target Methow irrigators . . .



photo of commissioner detro
“My one over-riding concern is wolves,” says DeTro. “I’ve taken a lot of flak over the wolf issue. I don’t want to eradicate them.”




Comment on this story. Comments will appear below as they are received.

I disagree that we can take wolves off the endangered species act just because it is your belief that they are robust across the west. We are
concerned about protecting wolves not just within our neighbors borders but WA state's as well for the overall health of the population. Let's talk about what is best for the country not just our own personal interests. - G. Northrup