Now that the fall local government elections are over and results have been certified, the final step that local government elected officials must complete before assuming office is to take the oath of office.
MRSC frequently receives questions about three basic issues involved with the oath of office:
- When can the oath of office be taken?
- Who can administer the oath of office?
- What wording must be used for the oath of office?
When can the oath of office be taken?
Typically, a newly elected official begins his or her term on or after the first day of January following the election, but only after or upon taking the oath of office. The newly-elected official may take the oath of office beginning on January 1 or at the first meeting of the governing body after the first of the year, but state law also allows for two options for taking the oath prior to the first of the year. RCW 29A.60.280(3) provides that the oath may be taken:
- Up to 10 days prior to the scheduled date of assuming office (January 1). Note that the oath does not have to be taken at a formal meeting of the governing body, although it often is.
- At the last regular meeting of the city, county, or special purpose district governing body held before the person elected is to assume office. So, if that body meets in a regular meeting only once in December, the oath can be taken at that meeting, whenever during the month it occurs.
If the oath is taken prior to January 1, then the elected official assumes office precisely at midnight on January 1. The oath can be re-administered for ceremonial purposes at the first meeting of 2014 if this is desired.
Those who are elected to fill a position that had been filled by a person appointed to that position (to fill a vacancy in that position) may take the oath of office and assume office as soon as the election results are certified, to fill what is called the “short term” until January 1. The person elected to this short term should again take the oath according to the rules above to assume office for the full term beginning January 1.
Who can administer the oath of office?
The oath of office may be administered by any notary public or by any other officer authorized by statute to administer oaths. The following is a list of the officials in local government who most commonly administer the oath of office:
- Court Commissioner
- Judicial Officers
- Clerk of Court
- County Auditor or Deputy Auditor
- County Commissioner or County Councilmember
- Mayor of a Code City, a Town, or a Second Class City
- Mayor Pro Tem of a Second Class City
- Clerk of a Code City
- Town Clerk or Deputy Clerk
What wording must be used for the oath of office?
When persons elected to office take the oath, they swear or affirm that they will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office to the best of their ability. Unless your jurisdiction has adopted a specific oath of office, no particular wording or form the oath is required.
The following oath of office is one that is commonly used:
I, _____, do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Washington, and all local ordinances, and that I will faithfully and impartially perform and discharge the duties of the office of _____, according to the law and the best of my ability.