Masked Austin re-elected as county commissioners' chair
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Phil Johnson, left, and John Austin attend Monday's Jefferson County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday. The mask was due to a cold.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Commissioner John Austin was a masked man as he was re-elected as board chair Monday.

The Port Ludlow Democrat and retired psychologist received unanimous support from his colleagues to serve a third year in that position.

And, in turn, he wore a surgical mask to prevent the spread of a cold from which he is suffering.

“The chair provides the face of the commission, and his name is on all correspondence which can be difficult to change,” Austin said. “So it made sense for me to continue.”

Austin, who was elected to his second term on the board in 2010, said his commissioner colleagues, Phil Johnson and David Sullivan, previously served extended terms.

The three board members, all Democrats, get along well and this harmony makes an extended chairmanship possible, Austin said.

He said he recalled only one recent instance where there was a divided vote but could not remember the issue.

Other boards that are politically divided have a higher chairmanship turnover, he said.

Austin said the board chair doesn't have that much more power than his colleagues, but “the energy is different.”

During public comment periods, the chair may be singled out for criticism, he said.

“The chair is responsible for the decorum of the meeting and needs to know Roberts Rules of Order,” Austin said.

“I've had to cite a judge's rulings to support the fact that someone is out of order.”

Sullivan and Johnson were re-elected to the board in 2012 during Austin's chairmanship.

Austin said it was “a good rule” to not serve as chair during a year when the commissioner is up for re-election.

Austin, 71, who holds a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, is up for re-election in 2014.

He said he has not yet decided whether to run again,

“If I make the decision to run again, I probably won't be chair in 2014,” he said.

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

Last modified: January 07. 2013 6:14PM
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