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Responsibilities of Elected Offices
Federal offices County offices Special districts
President/Vice President
U.S. Senator
U.S. Representative
 
State executive offices
Governor
Lieutenant Governor
Secretary of State
Treasurer
Auditor

Attorney General

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Commissioner of Public Lands
Insurance Commissioner
 
State legislative offices
State Senator
State Representative
 
State judicial offices
Supreme Court Justice
Court of Appeals Judge
Assessor
Auditor
Clerk
Coroner
County Commissioner
Prosecuting Attorney
Sheriff
Treasurer
 
County judicial offices
Superior Court Judge
District Court Judge
 
City and Town offices
Types of city government
Council-Manager
Mayor-Council
 
Political party office
Precinct Committee Officer
Cemetery Districts
Fire Protection Districts
Parks and Recreation Districts
Port of Olympia
Public Utility District
Regional Fire Authorities
School Districts
 
 
Federal Offices- Partisan
President and Vice President

The President must be at least 35 years of age and a natural born U.S. citizen. The President is indirectly elected by voters through the Electoral College to a four-year term and cannot serve more than two consecutive elected terms.

The chief duty of the President is to ensure that the laws of the U.S. are faithfully executed. This duty is largely performed through appointments of thousands of federal positions, including secretaries of cabinet-level agencies and all judges of the federal judiciary; nominees are subject to confirmation by the Senate. The President is the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces. The President has the power to make treaties with foreign governments, which must be approved by the Senate. The President has the power to veto (reject) laws passed by Congress.

The Vice President shall become President in the event the Office of the President becomes vacant. The Vice President also serves as the presiding officer of the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Senator

U.S. Senators must be at least 30 years of age, have been a citizen of the U.S. for nine years, and be a registered voter of the state from which he or she is elected. The Senate is made up of 100 members, two from each state, and each Senator’s term is six years.

The Senate has several exclusive powers, including consenting to treaties and confirming federal appointments made by the President, and trying federal officials impeached by the House. The Senate and House have equal responsibility for declaring war, maintaining the armed forces, assessing taxes, borrowing money, minting currency, regulating commerce, and making all laws necessary for the operation of government.

U.S. Representative

U.S. Representatives must be at least 25 years of age, have been a citizen of the U.S. for seven years, and be a registered voter of the state from which he or she is elected. The House of Representatives is made up of 435 members, each state allocated a different number of members based on population, and each Representative’s term is two years. The total membership of the House is up for election in even-numbered years.

The Senate and House have equal responsibility for declaring war, maintaining the armed forces, assessing taxes, borrowing money, minting currency, regulating commerce, and making all laws necessary for the operation of government.

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State Executive Offices- Partisan
Governor

The Governor is the chief executive officer of the state. The Governor makes appointments for hundreds of positions, including directors of state agencies. The Governor reports annually to the Legislature on affairs of the state and submits a budget recommendation. The Governor may veto (reject) legislation passed by the Legislature.

Lietenant Governor

The Lieutenant Governor is elected independently of the Governor. The Lieutenant Governor acts as Governor if the Governor is unable to perform the official duties of the office and is first in line of succession if the Office of the Governor becomes vacant. The Lieutenant Governor is the presiding officer of the state Senate.

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State is the state’s chief elections officer, chief corporation officer, and oversees the state Archives and Library. Primary functions include certifying election results, filing and verifying initiatives and referenda, publishing the state voters’ pamphlet, registering and licensing corporations, limited partnerships and trademarks, registering charitable organizations, and collecting and preserving historical records of the state. The Secretary of State is second in line of succession for the Office of the Governor.

Treasurer

As the state’s fiscal officer, the state Treasurer’s principal duties are to manage and disperse all funds and accounts, be responsible for the safekeeping and interest on all state investments, account for and make payments of interest and principal on all state bonded indebtedness, and maintain a statewide revenue collection system for the purpose of expediting the deposit of state funds into the Treasury.

Auditor

Working with more than 2,600 state and local governments, the state Auditor conducts independent financial, accountability, and performance audits of all Washington state governments. The state Auditor conducts investigations of state employee whistleblower assertions about state agencies and also investigates reports of fraud, waste, and abuse received through its citizen hotline. Audit and investigation results are documented and reported to governments and the public.

Attorney General

The Attorney General serves as legal counsel to the Governor, members of the Legislature, state officials, and more than 230 state agencies, boards and commissions, colleges and universities. The office also represents the various administrative agencies and schools in court or administrative hearings. The Office of the Attorney General enforces consumer protection statutes and serves the public directly by providing information on consumer rights and fraudulent business practices.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Superintendent of Public Instruction is the only state executive office elected as a nonpartisan position.

As head of the state educational agency and chief executive officer of the state Board of Education, the Superintendent is responsible for the administration of the state kindergarten through twelfth grade education program. The regulatory duties of the office include certification of teaching personnel, approval and accreditation of programs, and apportionment of state and local funds. The Superintendent also provides assistance to school districts’ school improvement areas.

Commissioner of Public Lands

The Commissioner of Public Lands is the head of the Department of Natural Resources, overseeing the management of 5 million acres of forest, agricultural, range, tidal, and shore lands of the state. Subject to proprietary policies established by the Board of Natural Resources, the Commissioner is responsible for the exercise of all duties and functions of the department.

Insurance Commissioner

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner regulates insurance companies doing business in Washington, licenses agents and brokers, reviews policies and rates, examines the operations and finances of insurers, and handles inquiries and complaints from the public.

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State Legislative Offices- Partisan
State Senator

A senator’s term is four years. The Senate is made up of 49 members, one from each legislative district in the state. One-half the membership of the Senate is up for election each even-numbered year.

The Senate’s only exclusive duty is to confirm governor appointments. During legislative sessions, the Legislature is called upon to enact or reject legislation affecting public policy in the state, provide for the levy and collection of taxes and other revenue to support state government and assist local government, and appropriate funds for these purposes.

State Representative

A representative’s term is two years. The House is made up of 98 members, two from each legislative district in the state. The total membership of the House is up for election each even-numbered year.

During legislative sessions, the Legislature is called upon to enact or reject legislation affecting public policy in the state, provide for the levy and collection of taxes and other revenue to support state government and assist local government, and appropriate funds for these purposes.

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State Judicial Offices- Nonpartisan
Supreme Court Justice

To run and serve as a Supreme Court Justice, a candidate must be a registered voter of the state. Nine justices sit on the state Supreme Court, each serving six-year terms. Three justices are up for election every two years and are voted on statewide.

The Supreme Court hears appeals and decides on cases from the Court of Appeals and other lower courts.

Court of Appeals Judge

A total of 22 judges serve the court in three, multi-county divisions headquartered in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane. Each division is broken up into three districts. A candidate must be a registered voter of the district from which he or she is elected. Court of Appeals Judges serve six-year terms.

Courts of Appeals hear and decide on most of the appeals that come up from the superior courts.

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County Offices- Partisan
Assessor

The assessor’s primary duty is to annually determine the fair market value of all real and personal property for use as the basis upon which to calculate property taxes. State law requires that real property be inspected once every six years. For each year between physical inspections, property values are adjusted using appropriate statistical data.  Personal property listings are provided each year by business owners for use in determining personal property values. The assessor is also responsible for property value exemption and reduction programs.

Property tax levied against assessed property value is determined by a combination of factors: the State Constitution, State Legislature, county and local government budgetary decisions, and voter approved tax measures.

Auditor

As the chief elections officer, the auditor is responsible for conducting all elections, registering all voters, and providing voter information, including the local voters’ pamphlets. The auditor is the chief financial officer in respect to expenditures, auditing all expenditures, accounts payable, and payroll. Other financial duties include conducting internal fiscal and preparing annual financial reports. The auditor’s duties as the licensing agent include issuing vehicle, vessel, marriage, business, and animal licenses. The auditor also contracts with eight private businesses throughout the county for vehicle and vessel licensing. Finally, the auditor is the county recorder, maintaining a record of all real estate contracts, deeds, mortgages, surveys, liens, and other documents from 1852 to the present.

Clerk

The clerk is an independent elected official. The clerk preserves for the public free access to a fair, accurate, and independently established record of the opinions, decisions, and judgments of the court. Specific functions of the county clerk include: administrator of court records and exhibits; financial officer for the courts; quasi-judicial officer; ex officio clerk of the court; justice system administrator; and departmental administrator.

Accuracy and efficiency are critical in the clerk’s office, as even the slightest error or omission in indexing, posting, filing, preparation of writs or disbursements of funds affects the life or property of members of the public.

Coroner

The coroner investigates all sudden, violent, suspicious, and unusual deaths occurring in the county. The coroner’s purpose is threefold: to fully investigate each death and ascertain facts; to prevent similar deaths in the future; and to ensure that a death is not concealed, overlooked, or ignored.

The coroner certifies and signs the death certificate as to cause and manner, locates and notifies next of kin, and inventories and releases personal property found on the deceased to next of kin.

County Commissioner

The three-member commission is both a local government and a subdivision of state government. Its primary responsibility is serving as the general purpose local government and legislative authority outside city limits. Many county responsibilities are mandated by state law; others are permitted by state law, allowing considerable local discretion. The commission is responsible for county policies relating to public safety and health, community development, human services, environmental protection, solid waste, county finance, transportation, parks and recreation, and other state legislative directed duties.

Prosecuting Attorney

The prosecuting attorney prosecutes criminal actions in superior, district, and juvenile courts. The prosecuting attorney also provides legal advice to county officials and represents the county in civil actions and mental illness hearings.

The family support division of the prosecuting attorney’s office handles paternity and child support collection cases. The victim’s advocate division of the prosecuting attorney’s office assists victims/survivors throughout the criminal prosecution of their offenders.

Sheriff

The basic duties of sheriff fall into four categories: law enforcement; jail facilities management; civil and legal processing; and emergency operations. Law enforcement responsibilities consist of arresting and detaining alleged law violators, keeping the peace, and enforcing the legal controls relating to pollution, hunting, firearms, fireworks, traffic, and watercraft activities.

The sheriff also maintains and operates county jail facilities; serves court orders, summons, and subpoenas; conducts the forced sales of all property and foreclosures; and assists in disaster emergencies (i.e. floods, earthquakes, etc.) and in search and rescue operations.

Treasurer

The treasurer is responsible for providing banking, investment, debt and cash management services for the county and all local governments within the county, except cities. The treasurer receives and disburses cash that totals over $2 billion for 40 different entities including school and fire districts.

The treasurer invests all cash from these districts and pays interest earnings on the funds to the districts. The investment portfolio represents a source of income that is “non-tax” supported. In addition, the treasurer bills and collects all property taxes for every government in Thurston County. The treasurer accounts for and distributes these tax collections to the government for whom it is collected.

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County Judicial Offices- Nonpartisan
Superior Court Judge

Superior Court Judges serve four-year terms. Superior Courts hear felony criminal cases, civil cases involving real property, domestic relations matters, juvenile matters, appeals from lower courts, and appeals from state administrative agencies.

Thurston County’s Superior Court has eight full-time elected judges who sit on all matters and three Superior Court Commissioners who sit primarily in Family & Juvenile Court and on domestic relations and domestic violence cases.

District Court Judge

The Thurston County District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction which hears civil, small claims, criminal, and traffic cases.  The civil jurisdiction of district court, with certain exceptions, is concurrent with that of the superior court, up to a maximum claim allowed of $75,000. The maximum small claim allowed is $5,000. The maximum criminal penalty that may be imposed is a fine not greater than $5,000 and imprisonment not greater than one year in the county jail, or both.

The court hears traffic and criminal citations issued by officers of the Washington State Patrol and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. The court also conducts all court proceedings for the City of Lacey and hears jury trials for other municipal courts within Thurston County.

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City and Town Offices- Nonpartisan
Types of City Government

There are two forms of city government in Thurston County: mayor-council and council-manager. Under both forms of government the council is the city's legislative and policy making body. All council members are elected.

The council enacts all ordinances, resolutions, and policies consistent with state law for the safety and welfare of the city’s or town’s residents. Ordinances may include local tax measures authorized by statute. Traffic, fire protection, police, land use, municipal services, business, and other regulations are overseen by the council. The council controls the city’s finances through the budgeting and auditing processes and by exercising general oversight. The council also makes contracts, creates subordinate positions, prescribes duties, and fixes salaries. The mayor’s role depends upon the form of government in a particular city or town.

Council-Manager (Lacey and Olympia)

In this form of government the council appoints a city manager as the chief administrative officer. The manager appoints and discharges all department heads and subordinate officers and is responsible to the council for the proper administration of all city affairs. The council may discharge the manager but may not interfere with or bypass the manager’s day-to-day administration of subordinates. A council member is selected by the council, or by an alternative election method, to act as chairman with the title of “mayor”. The mayor continues to be a full member of the council with all attendant rights, privileges, and immunities. The mayor also presides over council meetings and acts as the ceremonial head of the city. The mayor has no regular administrative powers but may be required to exercise certain powers in emergencies.

Mayor-Council (Bucoda, Rainier, Tenino, Tumwater, and Yelm)

In this form of government, the mayor is elected and is the city’s chief executive or administrative officer and the ceremonial head of the city. The mayor carries out the council’s policies, administers day-to-day city affairs, and with some limitations appoints, supervises, and discharges subordinate officers. The mayor presides over council meetings and has a veto power over ordinances.

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Political Party Office- Partisan
Precinct Committee Officer (PCO)

A Precinct Committee Officer (PCO) is an elected official in either the Thurston County Democratic or Republican party. The office establishes a direct link between the party and the voters in the local precinct. In Washington State, PCO candidates only run in even years.

Candidates file a declaration of candidacy to represent their party in their precinct.  If the candidate is the only one from their party who files in their precinct, they are deemed elected after candidate filing at the end of May.  If the PCO candidate has an opponent from their party then the race will appear on the Primary Election ballot.  The winner is deemed elected after the Primary Election.  No write-ins are allowed.  The two year term of office is from December 1 to November 30.

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Special Districts- Nonpartisan
Cemetery Districts

Thurston County has two operating cemetery districts: District No. 1 (Grand Mound) in Rochester and District No. 2 in Yelm. Each district elects a three-member nonpartisan commission from within its jurisdiction, and the commissioners serve staggered six-year terms. The commission is non-salaried, but members may be reimbursed for expenses. Under state law, a commission is empowered to make and carry out contracts and to acquire, improve, and operate cemeteries. It establishes fees and regulations for their use. The budget is prepared by the district commission and certified by the Board of County Commissioners. The county Treasurer receives and disburses all revenues and maintains a cemetery fund for each district. Funding comes from revenue received through the sale of cemetery lots, from the district’s share of the junior taxing district levies, and from private donations.

Fire Protection Districts & Regional Fire Authorities (RFA)

Fire protection districts and RFA’s are formed to provide fire prevention services, fire suppression, emergency medical services, and the protection of life and property in the county. Administrative authority for the districts results from decisions made by a board of elected fire commissioners. The board of fire commissioners has the authority to hire and appoint employees as well as administer all aspects of the district. The board is required to hold regular monthly meetings. Fire protection districts levy regular property taxes to provide services to the public. Additionally, with voter approval, the board may issue bonds and make excess levies for specific purposes. The voters elect commissioners to staggered six-year terms. The nonpartisan commissioners receive no regular salary, but may choose to receive nominal compensation for attending meetings.

Parks and Recreation Districts

State law allows for the formation of parks and recreation districts as municipal corporations for the purpose of providing recreational activities of a non-profit nature as a public service to the residents of the geographical areas included within district boundaries. Parks district commissions consist of a five-member nonpartisan board elected within the jurisdiction to serve staggered four-year terms. These districts may acquire properties, make contracts, establish fees, make rules governing park properties, and manage and operate facilities according to RCW 36.69.130. They may also impose property taxes, establish local improvement districts, and issue revenue bonds, subject to the restrictions contained in RCW chapter 36.69.

Port of Olympia

Port districts are empowered to levy taxes and special local improvement assessments, to promote economic development, to create incidental park and recreation facilities, to adopt and enforce regulations relating to moorage and toll facilities, and to cooperate with counties and cities in applying general police and traffic regulations to port properties and operations. The commissioners set objectives, policies, and overall port direction through comprehensive plans. The port manages 1,650 acres of land including the Olympia Airport, Swantown Marina, New Market facilities site, and a modern marine terminal. The three-member Port Commission serves as the board of directors for the Port of Olympia, a municipal corporation. Each commissioner represents a district within Thurston County. The term of office is four years, and a two year election cycle assures continuity in the direction of the port’s enterprises.

Public Utility District Commissioner

The Thurston County Public Utility District (PUD) has three elected commissioners, serving six year terms. The PUD provides utility services and water planning to the customers of the approximately 155 water systems it currently owns and operates.

The PUD is empowered to develop and operate any facilities necessary for the distribution of its utility services. In addition, the PUD can levy taxes against property within the district to raise funds. The PUD sets rates for the utility services of its customers.

School Districts

Thurston County is divided into nine separate school districts, each governed by a five-member board. The board’s responsibilities include: budget, policy development, curriculum approval, planning, and communications. School board directors delegate authority for day-to-day functions to professional staff; however, they may never delegate ultimate responsibility. Board members are elected in a nonpartisan general election by voters within that school district. They receive no salary. A board may approve a per diem compensation for its members for attending board meetings. In most districts, candidates must reside in the subdistrict for which they are seeking office. All candidates are elected by the voters of the entire school district.

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