IBEW leader takes office as Clark County Commissioner

Ed Barnes (right) is sworn in June 10 as a Clark County commissioner by Vancouver Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik. Standing to the left is Commissioner David Madore.
Ed Barnes (right) is sworn in June 10 as a Clark County commissioner by Vancouver Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik. Standing to the left is Commissioner David Madore.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Ed Barnes, a retired business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48, was sworn in June 10 to the Clark County Board of Commissioners.

Barnes, 80, was selected by Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke to fill the unexpired term of Steve Stuart, who resigned in April to take a job as city manager of Ridgefield. Barnes will serve the District 3 post until the end of the year.

A new commissioner will be elected in November. Barnes is not running for the position next term.

The installation of Barnes ends months of acrimony in this Southwest Washington county that includes the cities of Vancouver, Washougal, Camas, Battle Ground, and Ridgefield.

Under Washington law, the political party of the resigning county official must submit a list of three names to the sitting Board of Commissioners — in order of preference — to complete the term. The commissioners then have 60 days to select a replacement. If they don’t make an appointment in that time frame, the governor makes the choice.  [Gov. Jay Inslee is a Democrat.]

Stuart is a Democrat, so the Clark County Democrats Central Committee conducted an interview process, after which they chose Craig Pridemore, a former county commissioner and former state senator, as their top choice. They picked Kelly Love Parker, president of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and a former news reporter for KGW Channel 8 in Portland, as their second choice, and Barnes as their third choice. Both Parker and Barnes support Pridemore, and Pridemore has filed to run for a full commission term.

However, Madore and Mielke —the two sitting commissioners — are  Republicans. And it just so happens that fellow Republican Jeanne Stewart, a former Vancouver city councilor, is challenging Pridemore for the District 3 county seat.

Clark County residents have been skeptical from the outset, predicting that Madore and Mielke would never appoint Pridemore because it might give him an advantage come Election Day. The two commissioners interviewed all the finalists, but after several weeks they declared that they couldn’t reach consensus. But with the 60-day deadline quickly approaching, on June 3 they announced Barnes the interim commissioner.

Barnes attends commission meetings on a regular basis, where he often butts heads with Madore and Mielke. He’s even been threatened with a defamation lawsuit by Clark County Department of Environmental Services Director Don Benton.

Madore and Mielke hired Benton, a Republican friend, without following traditional county hiring procedures. Barnes and other residents say Benton isn’t qualified for the job, and that the hiring was nothing more than “political cronyism.” Barnes’ repeated questioning of the hiring led Benton to send him a “cease and desist” letter under threat of a lawsuit.

After accepting the appointment, Barnes told the Labor Press: “I let Madore and Mielke know that I’m not going to let them put me down. I still have my opinion, and that’s not going to change. If I disagree with them on something, I will let them know.”

Barnes said he hadn’t been on the job for a day when he received his first two hate emails.

Barnes is a long-time member of IBEW Local 48 and a former president of the Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council.  After retiring in 1995, he compiled a long list of achievements in labor, civic, public service and political activities, including serving 12 years on Washington’s Transportation Commission.

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