The future of Clallam County starts at home.
One of just six counties in Washington State to use the Home Rule Charter form of government, Clallam looks to 15 representatives — three from each of its commissioner districts — to amend the county charter, a kind of constitution for our region.
Since it was established in 1976, Clallam County’s Home Rule Charter has undergone review by five commissions, in 1982, 1988, 1993, 2001 and 2006. Charter review commissioners serve one year, from the date they are elected.
In November of 2014, county residents have a chance to run for and elect fellow residents to a review commission.
“It’s a way for our citizens to have a say in how our county is organized,” said Sue Erzen, who was on the 2006 charter review commission.
To that end, the League of Women Voters is hosting a panel, “Running for the Charter Review Commission,” beginning at 6 p.m. Monday, April 14, in the Raymond Carver Room at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.
Panelist and County Commissioner Mike Doherty, explains what it means to be a charter county, tells how and why Clallam became a charter and discusses his experience with the charter over the years. League members Norma Turner and Mickie Vail talk about what it takes to be an effective charter review commissioner, and County Auditor Patty Rosand explains what to do to file for the election. The event also includes a time for questions from the audience.
Those interested must file for the general election. The filing period this year is May 12-16.
Home Rule Charters allow counties to address matters not covered by state law. Charters can also provide the powers of initiative and referendum to the citizens of the county.
The Clallam County Charter undergoes periodic reviews — now once every eight years — to determine the charter’s adequacy and suitability.
“This gives citizens an opportunity to have a voice in government without having to make the incredible life commitment,” Vail said. “You don’t have to have an agenda. I found it a very good learning experience.”
Erzen said, “It’s a good mix (with) five from each district.”
Vail, who served on the 2006 commission with Erzen, added, “It’s just like any board: fifteen people coming from fifteen places.”
One of the more significant changes to the county charter, Erzen noted, was the decision to make the Clallam County Director of Community Development staffer into an elected position, the only one like it in the nation.
“(That rule) will probably come up again this year,” Vail says.
Erzen says the issue of number of county commissioners may come up as well.
Other Washington State “Home Rule” county governments exist in King, Pierce, San Juan, Snohomish and Whatcom County; 33 other counties in the state operate under the commission form of government provided by state law.