The spirited sequence of recent events involving the Board of Yakima County Commissioners turned another page Tuesday with the appointment of LaDon Linde as District 3 commissioner, replacing the late Norm Childress, who died of cancer in September.
Linde is director of medical staff services at Astria Sunnyside Hospital and a former longtime Lower Valley dairyman. District 3 covers the eastern portion of the county north of the Yakima River. The two remaining commissioners, Vicki Baker and Ron Anderson, made the final decision, choosing Linde over fellow finalists Autumn Torres and Jim Restucci.
Conspicuous in her absence through the process of replacing Childress was Amanda McKinney, who defeated Baker in the recent general election by a large margin and will take office as District 1 commissioner shortly after the election is certified on Nov. 24. Baker, herself a January appointee to the county commission after Mike Leita’s retirement, and Anderson did not seek McKinney’s input in the decision despite Baker’s lame-duck status.
Baker had nothing to say to the Herald-Republic’s news team regarding the decision to not seek McKinney’s input. Anderson’s response was an email stating that “The decision is that of the commissioners” and nothing else.
Meanwhile, McKinney — who often criticized the commission’s level of transparency during her campaign — said that while she understands the current commissioners were responsible for the selection, nonetheless she would like to have had a say. She refused to state a preference for any of the finalists, but on Tuesday she offered her congratulations to Linde.
“LaDon will serve with a great sense of duty, knowing he is fulfilling the role vacated due to the tragic passing of Norm Childress,” McKinney wrote in a news release. “I stand committed and eager to establish a great working relationship with the commissioners working closely with Ron and LaDon to achieve great things for the people of Yakima County.”
Reducing the above to simplest terms: The two remaining commissioners made this appointment despite knowing that one of them had been turned out of office by the voters of Yakima County and will serve with the appointee for only a matter of days, while the incoming commissioner — McKinney, approved for a four-year term by nearly 55% of the voters — was given absolutely no say despite her willingness to take part in the process.
The Herald-Republic’s editorial board endorsed McKinney over Baker, and we also opined that Baker and Anderson would be wise to seek McKinney’s input before they named Childress’ replacement. McKinney and Baker are Republicans who describe themselves as conservatives, with Baker more aligned with the county’s political establishment — something that did not always sit well with McKinney supporters.
We are not critical of Baker’s work as commissioner; she served with distinction as the face of county government regarding pandemic issues and has had to shoulder a much heavier load since the sudden death of Childress.
Nor do we in any way wish to rain on LaDon Linde’s parade; we wish him the best in his new role.
But we stand by what we wrote when we offered McKinney our endorsement in October: “She would bring vigor, vision, better communication and transparency to the office, making it more accessible to people who feel they’ve not been listened to.” The handling of naming Childress’ replacement only cements our position that change was and is needed on the Board of Yakima County Commissioners.