Candidate’s answer on commissioner compensation is a ‘noble’ response

Hosp. dist. commissioner candidate Wendy Noble said salary could get more qualified people in power

During the Oct. 10 forum featuring the candidates running for the five board of commissioner positions of the proposed hospital district, an islander asked them whether they’d accept the salary that could come with it if they’re elected.

Donald Wolczko, a veterinarian who is running for position no. 1 on the board, referred to the letter published in The Beachcomber last August, which included the signatures of him and seven other candidates stating they would sign waivers if elected declining the salary.

“It was written in the paper, so it must be true,” Wolczko quipped.

His opponent, John Staczek, also committed during Thursday’s forum to declining compensation if elected, officially making the nine candidates unanimous in their pledge (another candidate, Bill Swartz, will be on the ballot for board position no. 2, but is not running for personal reasons).

But what was most striking — and new — about the candidates’ answers to the compensation question on Thursday during the forum at the Vashon United Methodist Church was when Wendy Noble, a nurse practitioner running for board position no. 4, spoke.

Instead of just answering “no,” she added a caveat, stating that declining a salary on the board should not be the gold standard for other candidates.

“In the future, there may be somebody who wants to be a commissioner who is a single parent; who is a school teacher; who can’t afford to tackle this extra work — which is a huge commitment of time and energy,” Noble said. “So, for us to say, ‘nobody … should ever accept any reimbursement or any compensation for their work’ may eliminate some really vital people in this community.”

Public opinion polls conducted over the last several years show an increasing distrust many Americans have with their elected officials, particularly members of Congress, and Noble’s answer brings into the spotlight a reason why: the amount of money they make. Although many elected representatives take the salary provided to them by law, their net worth from other sources oftentimes means their public salary is not essential to their livelihood, leading many in the public to think they’re out of touch with the people.

If anything, the board of commissioners candidates’ answers at the forum on Thursday told islanders they could live comfortably without a paycheck from taxpayers. Islanders might believe that those are the only kinds of people who will be elected to the board of commissioners if Proposition 1 for hospital district no. 5 passes in November. Noble told The Beachcomber she hopes that is not the case.

“The viewpoints, experiences and voices of younger people, those raising families, people of color, those who are working in minimum wage jobs and our artists and farmers need to be heard,” she wrote. “The expectation that there will be no compensation for taking the time to serve on this demanding Board could pose a challenge for some of those people.”

Well written, Wendy. Our island is better off when people from all walks of life have a chance to make a difference in the community while holding elected office.