Jarrett is deputy King County executive

State Sen. Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island will join King County Executive-elect Dow Constantine’s forthcoming administration as deputy executive, the highest ranking staff position in the administration. Constantine announced the news on Nov. 10.

“I cannot think of a more perfect fit to address the challenges and opportunities that we face while we remain true to our core values,” said the King County executive-elect.

Jarrett will give up his legislative seat in Olympia in order to take the reins of the day-to-day operations of King County government. The politician will also oversee the implementation of Constantine’s ambitious reform agenda.

Asked about this responsibility, Jarrett said he was eager for the challenge.

“This is a real opportunity to do things I’ve been talking about in government for years,” the Island resident said. “Dow has set an agenda of King County government reform that can only be done in a difficult time like now. I think we’re going to remake this government.”

Jarrett, a former Mercer Island mayor, has experience in both the public and private sector. A resigned Boeing executive, Jarrett is also a legislative leader with expertise in transportation, job training and creation, and performance governance. On Mercer Island, he has served on the City Council and the School Board.

“Fred’s willingness to assume this leadership role will assure that the ideas he and I shared on the campaign trail, and those generated by our large, diverse transition team, will be carried forward at the county,” Constantine said.

The deputy executive position will be enhanced as compared to some previous administrations. Jarrett, second in power only to Constantine, will primarily serve as the county’s chief operating officer.

Taking on this position, Jarrett leaves much behind in Olympia.

He has served four terms in the state House of Representatives as a Republican representing the Eastside’s 41st Legislative District, and then switched to the Democratic party before he was elected to the Senate seat in 2008.

A vociferous proponent of improving Washington state education, many will miss the role that Jarrett played in Olympia. He himself admits that he is reluctant to walk away from that seat.

“It’s a disappointment in the sense that I have a passion for education. It’s hard to let go of the work I’m doing there,” he said.

But Jarrett has made his choice and must now focus on the county. He and Constantine, for whom he has high expectations as King County executive, have already begun working together.

“Our skills and experience will be very compatible and make us a good team,” Jarrett said. “Plus, there’s now a balance between the Eastside and Seattle.”

Jarrett will be replaced temporarily by appointment made by the King County Council, based on a list of preferred candidates drawn up by 41st Legislative District Democratic party officers. The Senate seat will ultimately be up for re-election for the remainder of the term in November 2010.

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