You were elected: and now?
November 1, 2021
Administrative and elected officials
Congratulations! You have been elected. The public wants to know more about your proposals and how you are going to handle some of the issues that need special attention. But where to start ? This blog goes over some steps that will need to be taken before a newly elected candidate can officially take office and provides links to resources that can be helpful in preparing for the challenges you may face.
Certify the vote and post the bond
Once the ballots have been cast and counted, the county canvassing commission must certify the vote and send the results to the secretary of state. Certification takes place on the fourth Tuesday following the November general election. (In 2021, election results will be certified on November 23.) Once done, a certificate of election will be issued to each successful candidate, indicating that they are – or soon will be – elected.
Is there anything else to do? Armed with a certificate of election, the elected officer must become “qualified” to perform his duties. Qualification requires that the votes have been certified, a certificate of election issued, any required bond deposited and the oath of office taken. Obtaining a bond should be easy. Contact the clerk in your jurisdiction to verify that your bond has been posted. The cost of the deposit is covered by the court (RCW 42.28.040).
Take the oath of office
There is a schedule for taking the oath. It can be taken on the first day of the new term, January 1, although this date may not always be suitable for the jurisdiction or the winning candidate. Recognizing this, state law also allows for the oath to be taken at other times: at the last board or council meeting before the winner takes office or up to 10 days before their scheduled date of office. entry into service (RCW 29A.60.280).
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned what is otherwise a routine post-election affair. Some jurisdictions may provide for administering the oath in person while others may choose a different route. Taking the oath of office during a pandemic offers a few options as well as questions for local governments to consider.
For most successful candidates elected to office, their new elected term begins on January 1. However, if the office is vacant and the successful candidate has been nominated to fill the office, then that person may be sworn in for a âshort termâ immediately after the votes have been certified. (The short term begins when votes are certified and ends when the new full term begins on January 1.) Thereafter, the person who won the election will be sworn in again for a new full term.
What if, for some reason, a winning candidate cannot or does not take the oath by a later date? In this situation, the outgoing elected predecessor remains in office (i.e. remains in office) until the newly elected person is qualified to take office. Until the new officer is qualified, the person replacing him retains the authority to perform the functions of the office.
Training of elected officials
Since 2014, elected officials in Washington state have been required to complete open government training. This training on the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) is required by RCW 42.30.205 and training on the Public Records Act (PRA) is required by RCW 42.56.150.
PRA and OPMA training must be completed within 90 days of the date a person takes the oath or, if no oath is required, within 90 days of taking office. Thereafter, training is required every four years.
While training on open government is required, even if it was not, knowledge of these laws is important. The public expects its elected officials to obey the law, and violations of these laws can result in significant legal bills, penalties and the delay of important actions. Open government courses are often offered throughout the year, and e-learning courses are available online for free. See, for example, the PRA and OPMA e-learning courses sponsored by the MRSC and the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), or the open government training offered by the state attorney general’s office.
Additionally, the AWC, the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC), and the Washington Association of County Officials (WACO) also offer resources specifically for newly elected city and county officials. For example, AWC will offer Elected Officials Essentials training for city officials on December 4, 2021, and the WACO website has a wealth of open town hall and public disclosure resources.
While it is one thing to meet the requirements listed above, there may still be a lot that the newly elected will want to know in order to be effective in their position. Fortunately, there are resources to consider for a better understanding of the various elected offices and the jurisdictions they serve. If you want to better understand your own jurisdiction, here are some suggested steps:
- Review and familiarize yourself with the municipal code in your jurisdiction, how it is constructed, and what information is included.
- Review any organizational charts that may exist and job descriptions for workers in the jurisdiction. If your jurisdiction has unionized workers, review the contracts it has with each union.
- Examine personnel policies.
- Review the overall court plan.
- Review the budget for the current year.
The MRSC has publications on a variety of topics, but here are a few that can help orient newly elected (and returning) officials:
Additionally, here are some agency-specific MRSC guides that can help you:
Finally, MRSC Insight offers quick and easy-to-read blogs on a variety of topics that speak directly to directors and elected officials.
Of course, MRSC provides consultants to help you answer your questions on finance, legal matters, planning, public works, and public policy. Contact us anytime.
MRSC is a private, non-profit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible Washington State government agencies can use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, political, or financial questions.