At a ceremony in Lt. Governor Joel Pritchard's office, Cedar County Committee President Lois Gustafson (right of hand truck) presented more than 23,000 signatures petitioning for the new county. Standing at Gustafson's left is Enumclaw resident Gordon Cox, one of four Cedar County Committee vice presidents.
by Becky Bishop
The road to creating Washington state's 40th county took a major turn last Wednesday when Cedar County Committee President Lois Gustafson and Vice President Gordon Cox submitted their completed petitions to Speaker of the State House Clyde Ballard. Approximately 75 Cedar County supporters accompanied the pair to Olympia.
"This is a victory in our fight to give the people who live in rural King County more control over their futures," said Gustafson. She said she was amazed and delighted with the warm reception by politicians in Olympia.
While there still were a few senators who wanted to rain on the Cedar County parade, "most were very open and warm to us, and the presentation of signatures could not have gone better," Gustafson said. "The senators who would be in Cedar County made sure we had a marvelous ceremony," she said. "Senator Bill Finkbeiner and Senator Johnson of the 47th District set us up with Lt. Governor Joel Pritchard to have the ceremony in his office. He (Finkbeiner) really went to bat for us."
The last year a new county was formed was 1911. Gustafson agreed the committee may be breaking some new ground, especially when dealing with senators who have been putting up some "road blocks" to the effort.
"Some lawmakers think they should have an expanded role, but technically they have to pass enabling legislation that sets the boundaries," Gustafson said. She explained that the Cedar County Committee will not be setting any policies for the new county. "There are 11 of us (on the committee) so we don't agree on everything, but one thing we do agree on is the importance of having a county that is not directed by Seattle."
After submission to the Speaker of the House, petitions supporting the creation of Cedar County will be forwarded to the Secretary of State. Included will be instructions to copy the petitions and send them on to the Office of King County Records & Elections for signature validation. King County will be given two weeks to cross-check any newly registered voters who signed the petitions. When the validation process is complete, the Secretary of State will certify the results to the Legislature regarding the number of valid signatures submitted. The Legislature must then approve the new county boundaries by statute.
The Cedar County Committee is not taking for granted that there will be enough valid signatures once King County has completed the validation process, Gustafson said. Meetings are still being held and petitions and signatures are still being gathered. Gustafson is looking forward to having an official count of validated signatures. While the committee expects there will be some additional signatures needed, they are confident of obtaining a sufficient number and becoming operational in 12 to 18 months.
The next Cedar County meeting will be held Mar. 7 at the Duvall Fire Station. Those interested can call Lois Gustafson at (206) 836-0272.