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Council incumbent faces challenge from young teacher

The two men running for Port Orchard’s at-large City Council seat claim different strengths and visions for the community.

The incumbent, Jerry Childs, says his resumé demonstrates repeated success. The challenger, Ben Pinneo, says he will bring fresh perspective.

Both candidates grew up in Washington, and have spent their careers in the public sector.

Childs grew up in Seattle, attended to Highline College, then the University of Washington, majoring in fisheries.

He entered the Seattle fire department in 1968, at age 21, and became a lieutenant four years later. Ten years after that, he became a captain.

Childs held four administrative positions during his time with the fire department — including Legal Officer and a Special Events Officer – retiring after 40 years.

“I’m a firefighter,” he said during last week’s candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap. “You can’t take the firefighter out of me. My whole persona deals with the fire department and can-do attitude.”

Pinneo, a South Kitsap native, recently began a different sort of public-sector career.

He attended Seattle Pacific University, where he studied education, history, politics and English.

He came back to Port Orchard after graduation to work as a teacher at South Kitsap High School, where he is in his fourth year teaching regular and honors English classes and serving as the school’s ASB advisor.

“I’m very blessed to be able to do this,” he said.

“I knew, since fourth grade, that I wanted to be a teacher,” Pinneo said, adding that he loves the area, and has always wanted to work here.

Being young and in touch with the community’s youth will, he says, give him fresh perspective for the City Council.

Pinneo and Childs take slightly different stands on several issues facing the city.

Notably, they’ve expressed different opinions about whether or not the city should change from its current second-class status and become a code city.

Childs thinks Port Orchard should become a code city.

“It takes control from the state legislature,” he said. “I’m in favor of more home rule.”

He also favors the switch, he says, because of the lack of opposition.

“We had three hearings on this over two months,” he said. “Nobody had anything to say against it.”

The state legislature has allowed municipalities to become code cities since 1967. Almost all of the cities in the state have adopted code city status since, Childs said, and none have reverted to their previous systems of government.

Pinneo says he’s not sure that the idea is a good one.

“There’s a lot of specific information we have to go over before making the decision,” he said.

He’d like to know, for instance, how the City Council would use its new power to make financial decisions at work study sessions, rather than at regular meetings.

“Before opting for the freedoms, we need to see how the city will use them,” Pinneo said.

He and Childs have also disagreed on Childs’ capacity for forward thinking.

Childs has, since early in his campaign, sold his capabilities as a “visionary” and “activist” as strengths.

He has cited his work on a redesign of Port Orchard’s waterfront trail as an example.

“While being a huge proponent of the pedestrian waterfront trail, I took a stand against the first round of designs put forward,” he wrote in campaign material he forwarded shortly after filing for re-election. “I felt our best alternative and the one I felt to be most user friendly was one that would intersect with the Port of Bremerton Waterfront Park. However, the port didn’t like the design as put forth and seemed reluctant to discuss it further.”

Childs personally discussed the issue with the Port commissioners, to clarify their concerns. With that additional information, he worked with the engineering firm that designed the trail, to draw an alternative.

“The engineer created a revised drawing reflecting my idea, and I then took and presented it to the port commissioners and my colleagues on the council,” he wrote. “The new proposal was universally accepted and resulted in the City saving approximately $200,000.”

But Pinneo says that Childs hasn’t demonstrated forward thinking when he initially spoke against allowing medical marijuana facilities in Port Orchard, then voted against imposing a moratorium on collective marijuana gardens in the city.

Childs says that he still personally opposes the gardens, but he voted against the moratorium to show that he had listened to those who spoke to the council about the benefits of medical marijuana.

Pinneo has pitched his connection with youth and his fresh ideas as a major strength.

“I have this sense that, when people hit 18, they want to move out of here,” he said in an interview, shortly after filing his election papers with the county auditor. “There’s not a lot for that 20-something, 30-something crowd, and there’s that sense that everything better is in Tacoma, Seattle or somewhere else.”

Pinneo has a Website at www.pinneoforcitycouncil.com/, and a Facebook page titled Pinneo for Port Orchard City Council. Childs has a Facebook page titled Re-Elect Jerry Childs City Council.

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