On his first official day in office, newly elected Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire’s large desk was empty except for four things: A New Yorker desk calender, a Seattle Times newspaper, a coffee cup depicting horses and a copy of that morning’s Clallam County Board of Commissioners work session agenda.
Later, he would turn on the darkened computer, fiddle with the buttons on the phone, find the bathrooms and otherwise acquaint himself with the basics of the commissioner’s office.
“This is a new adventure for me,” the former Port of Port Angeles commissioner said as he pulled the first two days off the New Yorker calender so it accurately read Jan. 3. “I’ve always sought a life of adventure and here we are again.”
A native of North Georgia, McEntire said growing up he wanted to go into the military and, like many others in his area, he thought that would mean the U.S. Army.
But then he discovered the sea, he recalled, and joined the Coast Guard, rising to the rank of captain.
“High risk, high reward” always appealed to him and serving as a Clallam County commissioner will be no different. In the Coast Guard, new duty assignments came down the line every three or four years so McEntire grew accustomed to change happening after the same time frame as most political terms.
He served four years on the Port of Port Angeles commission, resigning after his election to take Steve Tharinger’s seat on the Clallam County Board of Commissioners.
“I get an itch about what to do next,” he said.
At the Jan. 3 work session, Commissioner Mike Doherty welcomed McEntire and took a few minutes to explain the agenda, calender items and other procedural details.
When discussing the calender, McEntire told the board he wouldn’t be able to attend the Jan. 9 work session because the Port had invited him to a reception.
“Something about cake or a lump of coal for a former Port commissioner,” he said.
The first item of business McEntire discussed as a commissioner was the closure of the Forks public health office on Mondays.
“I’m going to be asking tons of questions, please bear with me,” he told Health and Human Services Director Iva Burks.
Burks said the county spent $225,000 on the Forks operation last year and cuts were necessary to meet budget constraints. The office has four part-time employees.
Another matter of business discussed by the commissioners was board appointments for 2012.
McEntire told fellow commissioners Doherty and Mike Chapman he has a strong interest in economic development, veterans issues and transportation. He said he questioned the wisdom of having a commissioner serve on the Hotel/Motel Tax Advisory Committee because it seemed like “answering your own mail.”
Doherty said former commissioner Tharinger didn’t vote on funding, which is received by the county, but facilitated the meetings, acting as a liaison.
McEntire also suggested Director of Community Development Sheila Roark Miller serve on the Dungeness River Management Team instead of him.
“The charter says the DCD director is tasked with environment and water issues,” he said.
He volunteered to serve as Veterans Affairs liaison, which Doherty said he didn’t want to give up.
Doherty offered his position on the William Shore Memorial Pool District board to McEntire, who was jokingly suspicious of the offer.
“There must be a reason you’re trying to get rid of that one,” McEntire said.
McEntire also questioned if there was overlap in some of the local boards and committees.
“I go to a lot of meetings where the same people show up,” he said.
At the commissioners’ Jan. 10 meeting, the board passed a resolution placing McEntire on the DRMT board, Hotel/Motel Tax Advisory Committee, Economic Development Council and Peninsula Development District and naming him liaison to the Water Resource Inventory Area 18, among other appointments.
“I just want to say I’m delighted to be here and be part of the team,” he said. “I look forward to the work ahead.”
Doherty told McEntire his first conference call would be Jan. 5, with the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. The 70-page agenda would need to be reviewed beforehand, he said.
“You didn’t know that when you agreed to accept (the board appointment), did you?” Chapman laughed.
“I’m used to diving into the pool head first,” McEntire replied.
He used another pool analogy the following day when describing his first day in office: “Being in there, in office, in the deep end of the pool trying to keep my nostrils above water was pretty much day one.”
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.