Retired Key Peninsula Assistant Fire Chief Hal Wolverton registered with the Pierce County Auditor’s office as a write-in candidate Oct. 5 for fire commissioner position No. 3, opposing incumbent Commissioner Shawn Jensen in the election Nov. 7.
Wolverton told the Key Peninsula News he first filed to run May 19 but withdrew at the last minute after a miscommunication during a family medical emergency.
He changed his mind again after a meeting with the KP Volunteer Firefighters Association, whose members urged him to re-enter the race at the behest of John Pat Kelly, himself a candidate for commissioner position No. 5.
Kelly had earlier registered to run against Jensen for position No. 3 but withdrew hours before Wolverton first joined the race May 19, and instead registered to run for position No. 5 against Cambria Queen.
Position No. 5 is being vacated by interim Commissioner Ben Rasmussen, who was appointed in January to fill retiring Commissioner Keith Davies’s seat.
Wolverton’s name will not appear on the ballot, but he and his supporters will urge voters to write it in. In a statement to KP News, he said he would not campaign but would answer voter questions and serve if elected. His priority as a commissioner would be “restoring fiscal responsibility” to the district by resolving the “Key Center real estate issues” and budgeting to maintain existing facilities and apparatus to keep costs down.
John Mohn, president of the volunteer association, said it is not endorsing Wolverton or any other candidate, since it cannot do so as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, though individuals may organize to support him.
Wolverton, 59, retired as assistant chief March 31, 2023, after 33 years with KPFD. He served as interim fire chief between the retirement of Chief Guy Allen in 2018 and Chief Dustin Morrow’s start in April 2019, and then again starting Dec. 1, 2021, when Morrow left the district.
But Wolverton was put on paid administrative leave Dec. 14 by the board of fire commissioners when accused of discriminatory behavior. The board reinstated him March 22, 2022, after an independent investigation found that "none of the accusations made could be substantiated," according to the board minutes.
In an email to KP News, Jensen wrote, "The reasons that AC Wolverton was suspended were serious enough in nature that the board was left with no choice but to place him on paid administrative leave pending an independent investigation into the allegations. This was the only 'fair' thing to do for all the parties involved."
Jensen was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in October 2016 and was elected to his current term in 2017. Before that, he served on the Citizens Advisory Panel for the district for two years. He has also been a Key Pen Parks Commissioner since November 2016.
“I wish Hal well in the write-in campaign,” Jensen said. “But if he truly wants to serve the citizens, he should have stayed in the race, and we could have had those conversations (about serving).”
Register to vote by Oct. 30 at VoteWA.gov or in person until Nov. 7.
Ballots will be mailed Oct. 20. Drop boxes will open Oct. 20 and close Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 7.
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