Replacements for two recently resigned commissioners have been appointed to the San Juan County Public Hospital District 1 Board. Rebecca Smith and Dr. Warren Appleton were selected at the board’s Feb. 8 meeting.
Commissioner Mark Schwinge noted that selecting the two commissioners was a difficult decision since all the applicants were so qualified.
Smith is a retired volunteer firefighter and EMT, after 22 years of service for the San Juan Island fire department and Emergency Medical Services. Her husband is a current San Juan Island EMS volunteer EMT. Appleton is a retired emergency medicine physician and has lived on San Juan Island for over 20 years. He worked at Peace Island Medical Center for the last four years of his career.
Seven candidates were vying for board position 3, which Monica Harrington left on Jan. 25 because she is moving off the island for a new career; and position 5, which Bill Williams vacated on Jan. 24 for undisclosed reasons. Originally there were eight candidates, but one dropped out before the meeting, according to Commissioner Michael Edwards.
Candidates included former commissioner Barbara Sharp, whose two-year term ended in 2018, and John Manning, who lost to current commissioner Anna Lisa Lindstrum for the position 2 seat in last November’s election.
Smith was appointed to position 5 in a 2-1 vote. Lindstrum voted for Sharp and reminded commissioners that seats were usually elected positions and Sharp had won by a large majority in 2015.
“She did a fabulous job,” said Lindstrum
Sharp, Harrington and Williams won their seats by almost 60 percent in the November 2015 elections.
Appleton was appointed to position 3 in a 3-1 vote, after Smith was sworn in. Lindstrum did not vote in this round because the outcome was already determined when the majority voted first. She told the Journal she would have voted for Sharp.
“Unfortunately, these appointments…reflect the values of two commissioners and [do] not accurately represent the voters,” said Lindstrum to the Journal, noting that three of the five current commissioners were not elected to their seats.
Edwards was not elected for his current term after a legal precedent allowed him to remain a commissioner after the winner of his seat in last November’s election did not accept the position. He is serving his 13th year on the board, though he didn’t run for re-election. Before the legal precedent was found, Smith said she applied to fill the seat when the winner explained she would not be sworn in.
Edwards said that he chose the applicants that are the best fit for the board.
“We’ve gotta stand back and look at what are the duties of the commissioners, and that’s to do what’s best for the community,” he said.
“Personally, I hadn’t made my mind up until that morning,” he said.
According to the hospital district’s meeting agenda, the other candidates were “Dr. David Balmer, C. Mitchell Shlosser and Keri Talbott.” Edwards said Talbott pulled out before the meeting.
Lindstrum told the Journal that the newly appointed commissioners will oversee the renewal of a contract for services with the local Planned Parenthood in 2019, as well as a potential merger between San Juan Island EMS and the island’s fire department. The hospital district oversees EMS.
She also said that both of the newly appointed positions will go to the ballots in 2019, as well as the seats held by Commissioners Edwards and Schwinge.
Edwards noted the difficulty in choosing applicants.
“We started off very slow [with applications] and I had a lot of sleepless nights,” said Edwards at the meeting. “Thank you all for throwing your hat in the ring.”
Check the Journal for updates.
Heather Spaulding and Cali Bagby contributed to this story.