SANDPOINT — Bonner County’s unofficial fourth commissioner is bowing out.
Bonner County Clerk Scott, one of the longest-serving elected officials in county history and one of the few remaining Democrats in office in the Panhandle, announced she is retiring as of July 1.
Scott was hired as a deputy clerk in 1996, stood for election in 1990 and took office in 1991. She’s withstood six contested elections since then.
During her 27 years in office, Scott earned a reputation as being the commissioner’s fourth member due to her expertise with county finances and her influence over financial decisions.
It’s a label that’s been applied derisively or affectionately, depending on who’s applying it.
Scott said her decision did not come out of nowhere.
“A lot of people think that, but it’s not something that I just decided overnight. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”
Although Scott has drawn criticism for her advocacy of a statewide practice of inter-fund transfers to cover financial shortfalls and has often been at odds with Commissioner Mike Nielsen, she insists recent events are not behind her decision to retire.
“He doesn’t have that much power,” Scott bluntly said of Nielsen.
Nielsen has unabashedly urged the board to exercise more involvement and control over financial matters, which stands in stark contrast to some former commissioners whose contributions to the budget process consisted of nodding in agreement and deferring to colleagues who actually read and understood the spreadsheets.
Scott was in her 30s when she helped the county segue from manual, paper-based record keeping for court and land documents to computer-based methods. The state is now contemplating a new era of records management for the courts and recorders’ offices.
The Secretary of State, meanwhile, is giving counties a glimpse of technological changes affecting how elections are conducted.
“Stepping aside at this time will provide the new energy necessary to carry these changes forth. The county will be better served in the long run,” said Scott, who just turned 64.
Scott’s party will nominate three Democrats to complete the rest of her term and the county commission will appoint a successor. The clerk’s position is up for election in 2014.
Scott said she will miss the camaraderie among the clerks in her department, which she likened to a family rather than an assortment of coworkers.
“With the clerk’s position there’s no ‘good time’ to do this,” she said.
If Scott simply let her term expire, her successor would still have to hit the deck running and be prepared to conduct an election within 30 days of taking office.
Nevertheless, she does not intend to leave fellow department heads in the lurch. Budget workshops are being set and a preliminary budget will be drafted by the time she steps down.
It’s doubtful whoever succeeds her will be as versed in all the duties clerks in Idaho are charged with, which includes auditing, recording, elections and district court matters.
“But I’ve got 44 deputies out there that are very, very capable in carrying forth their duties and their responsibilities. Whoever comes in just needs to listen and learn,” said Scott.