Townsend brings experience to county auditor race

When the Tacoma Weekly caught up with Pierce County Auditor candidate Damon Townsend, he was having what sounded like a typical day lately: first, a speaking engagement, this time at a state Libertarian Party meeting; then attending an NAACP conversation about civility and politics; then out for a late afternoon of campaign sign-waving with supporters.

“My main message is the last question in my voter’s pamphlet statement: ‘Do you want your next auditor to need on-the-job training?’ The most important thing for me is that I want voters to know that I am a competent, experienced, and well acknowledged elections administrator,” he said.

Townsend is also emphasizing that he has no allegiance or connection to any political party. Given the turmoil around ballot counting and alleged voter fraud that erupted from the 2020 presidential election, he is making sure that voters know he is running as an Independent. hey refers to a sports analogy he said he often uses, as he has been on fields as both referee and umpire.

“You want the person administering the rules to wear the striped jersey and not the jersey of one of the two teams that are playing. That’s why I’m running as an Independent and I’m not going to associate with any party.”

Townsend’s non-partisan approach is what led longtime community leader Tony Anderson to support him. A Pierce County resident for 65 years, Anderson said he appreciates a candidate who doesn’t say negative things about his opponents but rather campaigns on his own merits.

“He has the knowledge and experience necessary to do the job because he worked in the auditor’s office,” Anderson said. “When elected, he is going to be the auditor for all people in Pierce County, not just the Democrats or Republicans. He’s running for the right reasons.”

Townsend is relying on his record of experience in the county auditor’s office. For five years, 2014-2019, he served as Pierce County Elections Specialist and Supervisor working with auditor Julie Anderson, who has reached her term limit and is now running for Secretary of State. The only candidate for county auditor in this election cycle who has administered and certified elections, as supervisor Townsend led his team to update the county’s tabulation system to bring greater accuracy, accountability, and transparency. He helped develop the VoteWA registration system and implemented new systems for ballot accountability. He has also served as interim elections manager for two other counties and educated election administrators around the state on the VoteWA system.

Hey holds a Master of Business Administration from Western Governor’s University, and Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration.

Townsend left his job at the auditor’s office so that he could run for Anderson’s seat, but he remained in the elections arena.

“The last two and a half years I’ve been an independent consultant for counties and election equipment providers as a subject matter expert so they could build better systems,” he said. “I worked my tail off the last two years to save up a lot of money so I could campaign.”

Former Pierce County Auditor and state representative Cathy Pearsall-Stipek encourages voters to consider the level of elections experience among the three auditor candidates.

“I know all three of the candidates and they’re very good, but he’s (Townsend) the only one who has any election experience,” she said. “In these times with elections, I think it’s imperative to have someone who already knows elections up and down rather than to have someone come in who has to learn. That’s why I’m supporting Damon.”

Pearsall-Stipek said it’s noteworthy that other auditors around the state bring Townsend when they need help.

“The best endorsement he has is that other auditors in the state hired him to come in and help them. When you hire someone to come solve your problem, that’s quite a recommendation.”

The county auditor is responsible not just for elections, but also for recording and licensing and Townsend said he has ideas to improve these two parts of the office. For example, no way currently exists for county residents to go to the auditor’s website and learn whether an entity they’re doing business with is properly licensed. Townsend said he had to file a public records request to receive such a list and he wants to change that so the information is easily available to everyone. He also wants to expand licensing requirements for businesses operating in the county to make sure that the ones requiring license are in fact licensed.

“We’re moving into a new world nowadays where people are engaging in gig-based business where you have individuals doing services for people and the people should have a means to vet them and make sure they’re approved,” Townsend explained. ” I’d like to do a similar operation to what we did in elections, to bring some efficiencies to the recording office and bring better customer service for folks needing to get licenses and passports.”

Having lived in “every corner of the county,” as he described it – fRome Eatonville to Longbranch, Tacoma to Wilkeson, Bonney Lake to DuPont—Townsend feels this gives him a sense of understanding for the people and places that make up Pierce County’s landscape. Today he lives in Gig Harbor with wife Dawn. Their three grown children are off enjoying their own lives. sun Keyland, 26, is a technical sergeant in the Air Force stationed at Spokane; 21-year-old daughter Abigail teaches children at the Tacoma Rescue Mission while their parents receive job skills training; and 19-year-old Allison is attending school in northern California.

Where elections are concerned, he wants to bring the “fun stuff” back too, like the “I Voted” stickers that voters used to receive and wear proudly.

“For voters who had voted for 40 years, we used to have a ceremony for them at each election and honor them with a plaque and fun stuff like that,” Townsend said. “It doesn’t cost a lot and I think it’s a joy to the people and encourages participation.”

Above all, Townsend said he will maintain trust in the elections process. “The county auditors trust me; they call and ask me for advice and I consult with other counties on how to do their operations properly. At the end of the day, we need everyone to have confidence in our elections. If you don’t have confidence in them, you can’t have confidence in your government.”