State Sen. Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island, a centrist Democrat named deputy to incoming King County Executive Dow Constantine, said he will focus first on reorganizing the executive office before tackling the broader government.

State Sen. Fred Jarrett, the centrist Democrat named deputy to incoming King County Executive Dow Constantine, said he will focus first on reorganizing the executive office before tackling the broader government.

Jarrett’s duties will include some of those of the traditionally powerful chief of staff. “Dow has made it clear that he wants one person reporting to him who has responsibility for the organization — what I think of as a chief operating officer position,” Jarrett said Tuesday.

Constantine, the Metropolitan King County Council chairman who defeated former TV news anchor Susan Hutchison in the Nov. 3 election, announced Tuesday he had chosen Jarrett as his top assistant.

“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 in a statement Tuesday.

“I cannot think of a more perfect fit to address the challenges and opportunities that we have while we remain true to our core values.”

Jarrett, a state representative who switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party before running for the Senate last year, ran for executive in the primary on a platform of improving management and reining in county spending.

Hutchison had talked about appointing Jarrett to a ranking position in her administration if she won.

“It’s still a thrill,” Jarrett, 60, said of his appointment, “but I think I have 40 stories to go before I hit the ground. I’m real excited to be part of Dow’s team. I really like the things Dow has been talking about. I think the county is a wonderful organization, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it and helping it to be even better.”

A Mercer Island native and a former Mercer Island City Council member and mayor, Jarrett has been a Boeing project manager for 35 years. Constantine last week named him co-chair of the 30-member transition committee that is advising him on how to organize the executive offices and whom to appoint.

The transition committee met for the first time Monday and was advised Tuesday that Constantine had chosen Jarrett as his deputy, Constantine spokesman Sandeep Kaushik said.

After taking office — Constantine is scheduled to be sworn in Nov. 24 — Jarrett and his new boss will figure out how to organize the broader government, Jarrett said.

“The bottom line is Dow has talked about a reform agenda that is consistent with his values throughout the campaign,” Jarrett said. “He is going to articulate that more fully when he is sworn in, and that will be the description of what the next 90 days and the next four years is going to focus on.”

Kaushik said Jarrett’s name “is one that came up numerous times in the campaign as someone who had policy expertise in a number of areas and who is highly respected across the county and across the political spectrum.”

When Jarrett resigns his Senate seat, it will give the County Council another important job to fill. Council members already were discussing how to choose a replacement for Constantine on the council.

Because Jarrett’s Senate seat is a partisan position, Democratic precinct committee officers will come up with three candidates and the County Council will choose one to serve until voters next fall elect a senator to complete the remainder of his term, which runs through 2012.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com