Abruptly, a new major figure on the Northwest political/governmental scene: Kurt Triplett, appointed as interim executive at King County, the Northwest's largest jurisdiction below the state level. He replaces Ron Sims, who for years was one of the highest-profile political figures in Washington state, who left for a job in the Obama Administration.
Triplett has not been so high profile, though he has been around the circuits of King County government. From his new web bio page: "He has served as Deputy Director of King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Senior Legislative Assistant to King County Councilwoman Cynthia Sullivan, and was a legislative aide to State Representative Judy Roland. As Deputy Chief of Staff for two years when Sims first took office and most recently as Chief of Staff since July of 2003, he has been instrumental in implementation of major initiatives and served as Sims’ chief budget negotiator and lead policy advisor." Not exactly a newcomer.
He will hold the job at least until after the November general election; a batch of hopefuls are competing to replace him. He is evidently not planning a run himself; his statement says he intends to "deliver a sound budget and a well-functioning government to the executive that is elected in November."
There are rumblings underneath his interim appointment; while his succession in the immediate aftermath of Sims' departure was a given, this longer-term appointment was not. So consider this from the Seattle Weekly blog:
Triplett has not spent his tenure as Sims' chief of staff making friends. When the council expressed distrust in the Executive's budget numbers, calling for a separate economic forecasting office answering to both branches of King County government, their frustration was aimed at Triplett as much as Sims. Triplett also made it very clear in late 2007 that Sims (and himself by association) believed the Sheriff should be an appointed position—an unsubtle shot at political adversary Sue Rahr. He also ran into trouble with activists over the King County animal shelter.
So it wasn't surprising when the panel convened by the council to recommend Sims' replacement voted 10 - 5 to name former Seattle mayor Charles Royer to the post rather than Triplett. What is surprising, to county outsiders anyway, is the council's vote today to name Triplett to the position instead. Three council members, Republicans Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert and Democrat Bob Ferguson, actually started off supporting a Royer appointment, but in the final vote approved Triplett.
And we seem to have here a new confluence of issues in the making in an increasingly interesting executive contest.