All Politics is Local

Musical (vice) chairs

At least Tom Mielke gets to be chair of the Clark County Board of Commissioners.

Four times since December, Mielke has been nominated as chair or vice chair of two other bodies he serves on, only to be passed over for someone else. In each case, he was spurned by either the Regional Transportation Council or C-Tran boards.

The process of picking a chair or vice chair is usually pretty routine. Often, the first person nominated is the person chosen without opposition. But recently, RTC and C-Tran have gotten into the habit of pitting two or more candidates against each other in a vote-off. And the impending departure of Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart has prompted in even more votes than usual.

Here’s a recap:

– In December, Mielke and Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman are nominated for RTC chair; the board picks Burkman. Mielke and Stuart are nominated for RTC vice chair; the board picks Stuart.

– In January, Mielke and Stuart are nominated for C-Tran chair; the board picks Stuart. Washougal City Councilor Connie Jo Freeman and Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt are nominated for C-Tran vice chair; the board picks Leavitt.

– In March, Clark County Commissioner David Madore and Leavitt are nominated for C-Tran chair; the board picks Leavitt. Madore and La Center Mayor Jim Irish are nominated for C-Tran vice chair; the board picks Irish.

– In April, Mielke and Camas City Councilor Melissa Smith are nominated for RTC vice chair; the board picks Smith.

Understand, the positions don’t come with any added power. They’re largely symbolic.

The chair gets to hold the gavel and facilitate discussion during the meeting. The vice chair gets to watch the chair hold the gavel and facilitate discussion during the meeting.

The posts generally rotate annually. The vice chair typically becomes chair the following year — as was the case with some of the above votes.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at eric.florip@columbian.com or 360-735-4541.