Candidate forum for hospital commissioner candidates

Four San Juan County Public Hospital District board commissioner positions are open this year, including a 6-year term, two 4-year terms and a 2-year term, and the staff and commissioners are hoping for a variety of candidates.

“It’s a wonderful way to serve your community,” secretary Pam Hutchins said.

The district held an open house and prospective candidate forum on May 9, in the Frank Wilson Memorial EMS Building. Prospective candidates must file by 4:30 p.m. May 17, according to the San Juan County Elections Office website, at But first, there was a tour of the EMS facilities.


San Juan Island EMS Chief Karl Kuetzing provided tours of the building during the open house. The downstairs consists of a conference room for meetings and training, a kitchen, a garage for two of the four ambulances, as well as storage and a shower where respondents can quickly spray themselves off if they get into something particularly messy.

Upstairs is more storage, what Kuetzing calls the day room, an IT tech room, as well as three bedrooms for responders who are on 48-hour shifts.

“Last night we had a student, a volunteer and a paramedic spending the night,” Kuetzing said, explaining that having responders at the facility makes for quick responding time, which is the ultimate goal.

The memorial building is fairly new, he said and fits almost all the department’s needs. He sites a fitness room and a garage that would house the third ambulance as the two things lacking.

Candidate forum

The candidate forum began with Kuetzing giving a brief description of what the board of commissioners does, primarily oversight and keeping tabs of the finances.

Hutchins provided a short history of the board and explained that candidates do not need to be doctors to qualify for a position.

Mark Schwinge — who currently holds position 1, a six-year term — commented on how rewarding the job has been for him, adding, “It’s a great opportunity to serve.”

Commissioner Rebecca Smith currently holds position 5, a two-year term. She reminded attendees that commissioners are non-partisan.

“Whatever your political views are, they don’t matter,” Smith said.

Michael Edwards, board chairman, said he has been involved with the hospital district since its formation in the ‘90s. He currently holds position 4, a four-year term.

“It isn’t always steady sailing,” he said. “But overall it has been extremely rewarding”

Warren Appleton holds position 3, also a four-year term. He advised prospective candidates to keep an open mind and noted the job entails communication, trust and forming partnerships between fellow board members as well as the staff.

“It’s just a really fun group to be around,” he added, encouraging the public to contact him anytime with questions.

The commissioner job description handed out at the meeting listed sop prerequisites as a registered voter of San Juan County who spends at least 50 percent of their living time in the county; Familiarity with the Public Records Act, RCW 42.56, and Open Public Meetings Act, RCW 42.30, understanding of the hospital district, RCW 70.44, familiar with public entity levies and budget-based governance rules, ability to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, and familiar with obligations and responsibilities of employers toward employees.

“Proper administration of the district requires a commitment by commissioners to be ethical, independent, impartial and responsible to the constituents,” the handout stated.

For more information about the public hospital district, visit, or contact Pamela Hutchins via email at, or by phone at 360-378-2857.