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You’ve Been Elected; Now What?

November 12, 2019 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Elections , Administrative and Elected Officials

You’ve Been Elected; Now What?

Congratulations! You’ve been elected. The public wants to hear more about your proposals and how you will handle some of the problems that need attention. But where do you start? This blog reviews a few steps that will need to be taken before a newly-elected candidate can officially take office and offers some links to resources that may be helpful in getting ready for the challenges you may face.

Certifying the Vote and Posting the Bond

Once the votes have been cast and counted, the results need to be certified. The county canvassing board certifies the vote and sends the results to the Secretary of State. Certification occurs on the fourth Tuesday following the November general election. In 2019, the election results will be certified November 25. Once this is done, a certificate of election will be given to each winning candidate, telling him or her that they are — or soon will be — an elected official.

Is there anything else that must be done? Armed with a certificate of election, the officer-elect must become “qualified” to assume office. Qualification requires that the votes have been certified, an election certificate issued, any required bond posted, and the oath of office given. Obtaining a bond should be easy. Contact your jurisdiction’s clerk to verify your bond has been posted. The cost of the bond is paid for by the jurisdiction (RCW 42.28.040).

Taking the Oath of Office

There is a timetable for taking the oath of office. The oath can be taken on the first day of the new term, January 1. That date, though, may not always be convenient for either the jurisdiction or the winning candidate. Recognizing that, state law also allows the oath to be given at other times: at the last meeting of the board or council before the winner is to take office or up to 10 days prior to the date scheduled for taking office (RCW 29A.60.280).

While a new term begins January 1 for most successful candidates, if a position has been filled by someone who was appointed to fill a vacant position, the person elected to that position can be sworn in for a “short term” immediately after the votes have been certified. (The short term begins when the votes are certified and ends when the new, full term begins on January 1.) Thereafter the person will be sworn in again for his or her new full term.

What happens if, for some reason, a winning candidate cannot or does not take the oath of office until a later date? In that situation, the predecessor outgoing elected official continues in office (“holds over”) until the newly elected person becomes qualified to take office. Until the new officer is qualified, the person holding over continues to have authority to carry out the duties of the office.

Elected Official Training

There is one more important step that needs to be accomplished. Since 2014, elected and appointed officials have been required to obtain training on open government. Training is required by RCW 42.30.205 on the Open Public Meetings Act and by RCW 42.56.150 on the Public Records Act and the state’s record retention requirements. The training must be completed within 90 days following the date an individual takes the oath of office or, if no oath is required, within 90 days of assuming the duties of the office. Thereafter, training is required every four years.

While open government training is required, even if it wasn’t, knowledge of these laws is important. The public expects that their elected officials will follow the law, and violations of these laws can result in large legal bills, penalties, and the delay of important actions. There often are courses provided on open government throughout the year. Additionally, e-learning courses are available online, free of charge. See, for example, PRA and OPMA E-Learning Courses.

Additionally, the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC), and the Washington Association of County Officials (WACO) also offer resources specifically for newly elected officials. For example, AWC will offer Elected Officials Essentials training on December 7, 2019, and WACO’s website has a large cache of open public meeting and public disclosure resources. 

Additional Resources

Satisfying the above requirements will get the person elected into the office sought, but there may still be much the person will want to know to be effective in his or her position. Luckily, there are resources available for a newly elected person to review for a better understanding of their office and the jurisdiction it serves. If you want to get a better understanding of your jurisdiction, here are a few suggestions:

  • Many local governments gather their ordinances, resolutions, regulations and orders in a code book. Review and become familiar with your jurisdiction’s code, how it is constructed, and what information is included.
  • Review any organizational chart that may exist and the job descriptions of the jurisdiction’s workers. If your jurisdiction has unionized workers, review the contracts it has with each union.
  • Review personnel policies.
  • Review the jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan.
  • Review the budget for the current year.

MRSC has publications on a variety of topics but here are a few that can help to orient newly elected officials:

Additionally, some MRSC guides are more specific to the jurisdictions being served, including:

Of course, MRSC has consultants available to help answer the questions you may have on finance, legal issues, planning, public works, and public policy. Contact us anytime

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Paul Sullivan

Paul worked with many local governments and authored numerous MRSC publications on local elections, ordinances, and general local government operations in his many years at MRSC. He is now retired.



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