You’ve Been Elected: Now What?
Editors note: This blog has been updated to note that bond coverage for a candidate's certificate of election is normally included under an agency's insurance policy.
Congratulations! You’ve been elected. The public wants to hear more about your proposals and how you will manage 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 you can officially take office, as well as training requirements.
Certifying the Vote and Posting the Bond
Winning the vote is just the first thing a candidate must do to assume office. Here are additional steps a candidate must take to become qualified to assume office:
- Once ballots have been cast and counted, the county canvassing board will certify the vote and send the results to the Washington Secretary of State. Certification occurs on the fourth Tuesday following the November general election.
- Once the vote is certified, an election certificate is issued to each of the winning candidates stating that they are — or soon will be — an elected official.
- After a certificate of election is issued, a bond must be posted for the winning candidate. The cost of the bond is paid for by the candidate’s jurisdiction (see RCW 42.28.040), and so if questions arise, reach out to the clerk or administrator of your jurisdiction to verify that the bond was posted. Typically bond coverage is part of the jurisdiction’s insurance coverage through its risk pool.
- Finally, the winning candidate will need to take the oath of office.
Taking the Oath of Office
Our blog, The Oath of Office for Local Elected Officials, covers the timetable for taking the oath, as well as other details. The oath can be taken on the first day of the new term — January 1 — or 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).
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 candidate’s predecessor (i.e., the outgoing elected official) continues in office (i.e., 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 perform the duties of the office.
Training for Elected Officials
Since 2014, elected and appointed officials in Washington State have been required to obtain training on open government, including training on the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and on the Public Records Act (PRA).
PRA and OPMA training may be completed early but 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. RCW 42.30.205 sets forth the OPMA training requirements, which apply to “every member of a governing body.” The PRA training requirements for elected officials are set forth in RCW 42.56.150.
Given how important these issues are, MRSC highly recommends officials completing the training as soon as feasible — perhaps even before assuming office.
Where to find PRA and OPMA training
There are open government courses provided throughout the year and free e-learning courses are available online, including PRA and OPMA E-Learning Courses from MRSC and the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) or open government training modules offered by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
AWC is hosting a series of in-person and online Elected Officials Essentials Workshop for city officials on Saturday, December 9. The event will be hosted at nine in-person locations across the state, plus a 100% online option.
The Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) and the Washington Association of County Officials (WACO) partner (as they did in 2022) to host trainings for newly elected county officials. Newly elected commissioners with special purpose districts should turn to their district’s professional association for specialized training and additional resources.
While it is one thing to satisfy the requirements listed above, there may still be much the newly elected official will want to know to be effective in their position. Luckily, there are resources available to review for a better understanding of the various elected offices and the jurisdictions they serve. If you want to get a better understanding of your own jurisdiction, here are a few suggested steps:
- Review and become familiar with your jurisdiction’s municipal code, how it is constructed, and what information is included. For special purpose district commissioners, you will want to review the relevant statutes.
- 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 and local codes of ethics.
- Review the jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan or long-term planning documents.
- Review the budget for the current year.
Here are a few MRSC resources that can specifically help to orient newly elected (and returning) officials:
- Quick Guide for Newly Elected City Officials
- Quick Guide for Newly Elected County Officials
- Knowing the Territory - Basic Legal Guidelines for Washington City, County, and Special District Officials
- County Commissioner Guide
- Mayor and Councilmember Handbook
Finally, MRSC Insight offers quick, easy-to-read blogs on a variety of topics that speak directly to administrative and elected officials, or you can sign up for our e-newsletter and have relevant content delivered once a week to your Inbox. MRSC consultants are also available to help answer questions you may have on local government 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.