There is an "off year" election this fall yet there are so many seats open on boards in Point Roberts, it’s more like a general election. As shown below, 12 of the 17 local board positions will be on the ballot. Positions to be voted on this fall are shown in the boxes:
It's worth noting that since a person cannot appear on the ballot for two races, Stephen Falk will not be able to run to keep his seats on both the Parks board and the Hospital District board.
Please do not be shy about running. There are many well-meaning people who are on boards who have no idea what they are doing, yet there are many more experienced and well-qualified people who do not run.
There is a misconception among some locals that you must, or should, have experience in the operational area of the district to be on that district's board. That’s not true. You don’t have to be a former nurse to be on the Hospital District board or a former fire fighter to be on the Fire board. In fact, it may be better if you don’t have that experience.
Why? In your job as commissioner, you can never use that kind of operational experience because the role of a commissioner is not operational. That experience does not qualify a person in any way to make the decisions they will be required to make as commissioners. And that experience is no substitute for the knowledge the job of commissioner really does require. You wouldn’t hire a backyard car mechanic to run GM, yet that’s what we’ve done with most of our boards.
Commissioners are responsible for finance, budgeting, and managing any direct employees, only one of which is typically required by law. You do not need to be a CPA to be a commissioner but you do need to know more than how to balance a checkbook. If you can read a financial statement critically, you’ll be ahead of many of the people currently serving on these boards.
Consider the Fire District’s separation of powers and duties as an example, as proscribed by the Revised Code of Washington title 52. In summary, the commissioners are responsible for: hiring their only legally required employee, a Secretary; managing the district’s assets; reviewing and approving budgets and spending; setting levy rates; and dealing with any legal issues. They usually also hire a Chief who is responsible for fire fighter staffing, planning budgets, and managing the day-to-day operations. Under no circumstances does the board get involved in those day-to-day operations decisions.
To be clear, the district exists to provide a service, but that service is not rendered by the commissioners. Instead, the board delegates their authority to that person to run the district - the Fire Chief. My (Shannon’s) old copy of the Washington Fire Commissioners Association’s handbook makes the point clear: “The Chief is the CEO of the District and should be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the District.”
Hospital Districts have a similar structure. The purpose, powers, and duties of Hospital Districts are within RCW 70.44. They are also only required to have one employee, a superintendent. They can provide services directly or contract with a service provider, but either way, the superintendent is the middle-person.
The board sets policies, reviews and approves budgets and spending, manages the district’s assets, sets levy rates, and represents the district in any legal matters. According to the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts (AWPHD) Legal Manual, “... the board’s role is to adopt the necessary general policies and to delegate the district’s day-to-day operations to the district superintendent.”
Regardless of how a Hospital District chooses to run its operations, the law and AWPHD are clear in who does what. And, like a Fire Commissioner, Hospital District Commissioners are supposed to stay in their own lane. The AWPHD Commissioner Candidate Governance Education Webcast from June 8, 2017, bluntly states:
“The board’s primary contact—and only employee—is the superintendent (CEO)”.
“Let the full-time people run the show.” “Don’t be the police: trust, but verify.”
All of this clearly shows that you don't need to know medicine to be on the Hospital District board, fire fighting to be on the Fire board, parks maintenance to be on the Parks board, or water systems to be on the Water board. And you don't need to be dead to be on the Cemetery board. What you do need, for all of these boards, is knowledge of finance and governance, in addition to meeting all the legal eligibility requirements.
We encourage anyone who can read a balance sheet, think critically, and would be responsive to the community to run. The period to apply is short. It starts on Monday, May 13 and ends on Friday, May 17. Click here for the details, go down the middle of the page, column on right, to Candidate Filing Guide.
Here are a few references from the Revised Code of Washington.
RCW 52.12.021 General powers:
“Fire protection districts have full authority to carry out their purposes and to that end may acquire, purchase, hold, lease, manage, occupy, and sell real and personal property, or any interest therein, to enter into and to perform any and all necessary contracts, to appoint and employ the necessary officers, agents, and employees, to sue and be sued, to exercise the right of eminent domain, to levy and enforce the collection of assessments and special taxes in the manner and subject to the limitations provided in this title against the lands within the district for district revenues, and to do any and all lawful acts required and expedient to carry out the purpose of this title.”
RCW 52.12.031 Specific powers:
"Acquisition or lease of property or equipment — Contracts — Association of districts — Group life insurance — Building inspections — Fire investigations.”
RCW 52.14.080: The only employee a fire district is required to have is a secretary.
RCW 52.14.100 in part states:
“The board has the power and duty to adopt a seal of the district, to manage and conduct the business affairs of the district, to make and execute all necessary contracts, to employ any necessary services, and to adopt reasonable rules to govern the district and to perform its functions, and generally to perform all such acts as may be necessary to carry out the objects of the creation of the district.”
RCW 52.16 outlines finances, including taxing authority, etc.
RCW 70.44.080 Superintendent’s powers:
“(1) The superintendent shall be the chief administrative officer of the public district hospital and shall have control of administrative functions of the district. The superintendent shall be responsible to the commission for the efficient administration of all affairs of the district. In case of the absence or temporary disability of the superintendent a competent person shall be appointed by the commission. The superintendent shall be entitled to attend all meetings of the commission and its committees and to take part in the discussion of any matters pertaining to the district, but shall have no vote.”
RCW 70.44.090 Superintendent — Duties:
(1) The public hospital district superintendent shall have the power,and duty:
(a) To carry out the orders of the commission, and to see that all the laws of the state pertaining to matters within the functions of the district are duly enforced.
(b) To keep the commission fully advised as to the financial condition and needs of the district. To prepare, each year, an estimate for the ensuing fiscal year of the probable expenses of the district, and to recommend to the commission what development work should be undertaken, and what extensions and additions, if any, should be made, during the ensuing fiscal year, with an estimate of the costs of such development work, extensions and additions. To certify to the commission all the bills, allowances and payrolls, including claims due contractors of public works. To recommend to the commission a range of salaries to be paid to district employees.
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