Kathleen Kler, the first female chair of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, announced March 9 that she’ll spend the rest of her first term in office working on issues and not running to …
Kathleen Kler, the first female chair of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, announced March 9 that she’ll spend the rest of her first term in office working on issues and not running to retain the seat. She said she needs to take time to focus and advocate for her husband, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Kler, 67, had been watching who would step forward this election season to run for her District 3 seat on the three-person board. Democrat and emergency room technician Ryan Mc Allister, 30, declared his intentions to run several weeks ago. And Quilcene community activist and business owner Greg Brotherton, 45, had reached out to Kler almost a year ago, letting her know of his interest in the position. Brotherton also has declared his plans to seek the position as a Democrat. (See related story, A19.)
“I kept thinking, I have so much more to do,” said Kler of how hard the decision was for her. “It takes a long time to get your feet on the ground while riding a surfboard.”
Although Kler is not endorsing either Brotherton or Mc Allister, she acknowledged that she has been watching Brotherton at meetings both Kler and Brotherton attend.
Kler said that at a recent meeting held in Chimacum and relating to upcoming amendments to the Jefferson County comprehensive plan, she saw the next generation of farmers grappling with regulations. It’s a generation that understands ecology, organics and stewardship, she said, and its members are saying there’s a problem with the county’s regulations.
“I watched Greg and I thought, ‘Wow, this is Jefferson County now. If we don’t take care of this energy and this part of our county, we’re going to lose everything we say we’re trying to do as a county.”
At Monday’s commission meeting, longtime Chimacum farmer Roger Short also voiced frustration with rules regarding critical areas taking away the amount of land he can farm, she said.
Kler said her plate of county issues is full, with the land-use update, public records policy, development regulations for Pleasant Harbor Resort (also known as Brinnon Master Planned Resort), work on regulations for gun ranges, a community health improvement program and a treatment plan for opioid addiction issues.
“Those are big issues. Not running and not campaigning frees me up to do the work. It’s a plus if I’m going to go out having worked to the end,” she said.
Kler said she feels that her family’s health is a priority and she needs to be there for her husband, David Haakenson, who is 76. The two have been married for 31 years, and Kler said he has been a support in her life.
“It’s clearly my time to now support him as we move into this part of our life journey,” she said.
Kler also said she was given power of attorney for an aunt who also was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Kler said in a prepared statement that she was grateful to be given the chance to serve the county and for those who urged her to seek another term. She was elected as a Democrat in November 2014 and is the third woman to serve as a county commissioner. She is the second to be elected to the position.
In 2002, Democrat Wendi Wrinkle defeated Republican Pat Rodgers for a seat. Wrinkle then resigned for health reasons. She was replaced by Judith Mackey. In a special election in 2003, Rodgers defeated Mackey.
“I gained deep admiration for our county employees, whose good work often goes unseen and who are often under-compensated,” Kler said, adding that she also learned more about roads, landslides and solid waste than she thought she might have imagined.
Kler acknowledged that being handed the gavel as the first female chair of the board was a milestone and she was grateful for that honor, though she thought that “it was being in the right place at the right time.”
“It gave me more twists to my stomach on Monday morning than I was expecting, trying to be aware of comments, timing, Robert’s Rules of Order,” she said.
That aside, Kler said the best part of the job is having met so many people over the past four years.
“It’s like having the county served to me on a platter, with all these amazing people. I got to see all the volunteerism going on. It’s hard to say no,” she said.
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