By Gwen Roley
Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws has announced that he will not be seeking re-election.
Louws’ term ends in January 2020. When he leaves office, he will have served as county executive for eight years. The primary election for the next county executive will be in August, followed by a general election in November.
Louws served on Lynden City Council from 1990 to 1994 and was the mayor of Lynden from 2002 to 2010.
“My years of public service to Whatcom County have gone by quickly and I feel blessed to have been able to service the community I love,” Louws said in a press release.
Louws was elected as county executive in November 2011 and took office in January 2012. He was re-elected in 2015 to serve a second term.
The executive is the leader of the executive branch of county government. It is a non-partisan position with a four-year term. According to the Whatcom County website, it is the executive’s responsibility to provide government accountability and administration.
“At the end of my term, I’ll be turning over the reins to a new administration. I intend to do whatever I can to make sure that the transition is a smooth one,” Louws said in his press release.
First to throw her hat into the ring for the position is Karen Burke, executive director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County (DVSAS).
Burke announced she will be running for county executive on February 12. She is a graduate of Western Washington University and the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs and has served as the executive director of DVSAS since 2007. Before DVSAS, she was the director of the Lummi Nation Tribal Court where she managed and developed social assistance programs. Burke said she is running with the hope of making government more accessible.
“I think it’s time we start hearing from more voices in government,” Burke said. “I feel like government has been a closed-door system for a while, but in the past two years it feels like some of those doors are opening up.”
In her 18 years’ of executive leadership, Burke said she has made it her goal to bring people from different backgrounds together to find solutions to difficult problems.
“I am ready to work with our residents and partners to find and implement the right answers to local issues: affordable housing, living wage jobs, criminal justice reform and crime prevention, rural transportation and technology access, water quality and capacity, land use and economic development,” Burke said in her press release.
While Burke has announced her intention to run, she is not yet an official candidate. The filing period runs from May 13 to May 17. Prospective candidates may send in their application starting on April 29, but they will not be processed until the filing window.
If more than two candidates file, a primary election will take place on August 6. The two candidates with the highest number of votes will run against each other in the general election on November 5. If only two candidates file, there will be no primary election for county executive.
The deadline to register to vote or update voting information online or by mail for the August primary is July 29. For the November general election, it is October 28. Voter registration can be done online at the Washington Secretary of State’s website. Citizens can register to vote in-person up until the day of the election at the Whatcom County auditor’s office at 311 Grand Avenue in Bellingham.