About 200 people gathered at the Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia on Wednesday to see Thurston County’s newest elected officials sworn into office.
“Today is a celebration of democracy,” U.S. Rep. Denny Heck told the crowd, which included more than a dozen current and former politicians, along with family members and supporters of the newly elected officials.
The annual event was organized by Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall’s office, and featured an invocation by the Rev. Carol McKinley of Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and a much-celebrated flag salute led by Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza, who is easing back into work after being out for several months recovering from a motorcycle crash. Hall, Heck and retiring state Sen. Karen Fraser were the speakers.
The oath of office is far more important than any campaign promise, Fraser told the elected officials.
“It’s profound, and it’s serious,” she said. “I think it’s a promise to treat public office as a public trust.”
Hall presented an award, and Heck presented a flag to Fraser, thanking her for her decades of public service, which include 28 years in the Legislature, eight years as Thurston County Commissioner and time on the Lacey City Council, including as mayor.
“She is a role model for all elected officials,” Hall said.
Hall compared public office to marriage or a relationship.
“It takes a lot of work, and a lot of compromise,” she said.
The elected officials who took the oath of office included new state Reps. Laurie Dolan and Beth Doglio, Thurston County Commissioners John Hutchings and Gary Edwards, Thurston County Superior Court Judges Chris Lanese and John Skinder, and Thurston Public Utility District Commissioner Russ Olsen.
State Sen. Sam Hunt wasn’t able to attend the event, Hall said.
Edwards and Hutchings report to work on Tuesday. They’ll join Commissioner Bud Blake for their first Board of County Commissioners meeting at 2 p.m. that day.
Both said they enjoyed the swearing-in ceremony.
“It’s a pretty great responsibility to serve the community and do the best job you can for the community,” Edwards said.
“It’s a great feeling and I can’t wait to get started,” Hutchings said.
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The new commissioners posed for photos with Snaza and Blake after the ceremony. All four ran and won their offices as political independents.