Three vie for seat on commission

Eric Carpenter, Jim Johnson and Mark Spinks will be considered by county commissioners to fill Gregg Loney's seat.

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WALLA WALLA -- The Walla Walla County Republican Party's central committee Monday chose three nominees to replace an outgoing county commissioner.

Committee members chose Eric Carpenter, Jim Johnson and Mark Spinks to be on the list of candidates county commissioners will choose from when Commissioner Gregg Loney's seat becomes vacant at the end of this month.

Central committee members -- the precinct committee officers, county elected officials from partisan offices and members of the party's executive board -- chose Johnson and Spinks on the first ballot, with Johnson receiving 31 votes and Spinks 19 votes.

Two remaining candidates, Carpenter and Linda Newcomb, tied at 11 votes each. Committee members then voted a second time and Carpenter won the third spot with 17 votes to 13 for Newcomb. Sheryl Cox, party vice chairwoman, said six ballots were returned unmarked on the second ballot, indicating no preference.

Monday's meeting at the Walla Walla Regional Airport was the latest step in the process to find a replacement for Loney, who announced earlier this year he was resigning due to health problems.

Loney is in the final year of his second term in office. The Position 1 seat will be up for election in November and whoever wins will immediately take over the position, which pays $68,851 per year.

Before Monday's vote, applicants were asked to give short presentations, then field questions from committee and audience members. The questions included how they would deal with a budget shortfall, what they would do to combat crime and gang activity and how they might deal with a land use issue that would be economically beneficial but had also attracted vocal opposition.

After Loney's seat becomes vacant May 1, Commissioners Perry Dozier and Greg Tompkins will have 60 days to name a replacement. If they cannot agree on a candidate, the responsibility will shift to the governor, who will have 30 days to name a successor.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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About The Candidates

The three nominees chosen as candidates to fill the Position 1 seat on the Walla Walla County commission are:

Eric Carpenter -- Has been a Washington state Department of Transportation employee since 1996 and is currently in charge of maintenance and repair of highway maintenance equipment. He is a graduate of Walla Walla Community College and Whitman College and has been a party precinct officer.

Jim Johnson -- Is the founder of Jim Johnson Co. in Walla Walla, an accounting and tax service firm founded in 1983. He is a graduate of Seattle University and is an enrolled agent and license tax consultant. He is chairman of the county Republican Party, but removed himself from the commissioner selection process prior to submitting his name as an applicant.

Mark Spinks -- Is the former public records officer for Walla Walla County, a position he was hired for in 2010 that has been vacated by commissioners due to pending changes in the county's personnel structure. Prior to that post, Spinks was employed with Washington Mutual Bank in Seattle. He is a graduate of Texas State University.

All three nominees are also Republican Party members, registered voters and residents of the Position 1 commissioner district.

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