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County commissioner race begins
By Richard Walker
Chris Tibbs and Linda Simpson announced on Thursday their candidacies for the Kitsap County Commission, districts 1 and 2.
The announcements were made at the meeting of the Republican Party’s 23rd Legislative District Committee at the Silverdale Community Center. Tibbs, who is seeking the District 1 position, and Simpson each spoke for about five minutes about their candidacies.
Tibbs ran in November, receiving 34,633 votes to Democrat Rob Gelder’s 37,864 votes, for the right to finish the term vacated by Steve Bauer, who resigned. Simpson, of Bremerton, is a Navy reservist and community volunteer who ran for the 35th District state House in 2010.
Democrat Charlotte Garrido was elected District 2 commissioner in 2008, defeating Republican Tim Matthes 57,648 to 55,992. Matthes is now Port Orchard’s mayor. Garrido lost a 2004 bid for County Commission to Republican Jan Angel, 58,932 to 51,221.
County commissioners are elected for four years. They are paid $109,907 per year; they approve laws, set policies and manage a $325 million budget.
The party is emboldened by Tibbs’ performance in the Nov. 8 general election and by the chance to win two of three seats on the County Commission.
“How can you be happy with a county government that is in permanent three-day weekend mode? asked Jack Hamilton, chairman of the Kitsap County Republican Party. “Our county government worries more about trails than we do about cops,” he said, adding that county government’s state-mandated responsibilities are land use, law and justice and roads.
“It would be nice if county government worried more about economic development than taking away private property,” he said, referring to policies involving development setbacks and buffers near critical areas. “It would be nice if county government didn’t balance the budget by cutting government back. What kind of approach is that? Taxes don’t stop on Friday. Maybe if we didn’t pay taxes on Friday, it would be OK.”
That’s what Tibbs is preaching: Restore the county’s focus on a balanced budget; on law and justice, land use and roads; and a Monday through Friday schedule in county offices.
Much of what Tibbs promoted in 2011 is part of his platform this year:
— County government needs to reprioritize its services. Seventy percent of the population lives in unincorporated Kitsap County, and the critical issues there are law and justice, roads and land use, he said. (The county’s jurisdiction could become more rural if residents of urban Silverdale vote to create Kitsap’s fifth city).
— Consolidation of district and municipal courts would eliminate “overduplication” of services because district and municipal courts have the same authority.
— There needs to be more balance between environmental protection and development rights. Last year, regarding changes to the Shoreline Master Program, which regulates development and other uses in shoreline areas, he supported grandfathering properties that would be considered “non-conforming” under new development rules. If a house is listed as non-conforming — meaning it doesn’t conform to current codes — a buyer could have trouble getting financing, and a property owner won’t get a permit for site improvements.
“We need to keep Kitsap rural as best we can, but we have to balance that with respect for individual property rights,” he said at the time.
— He believes county commissioners could focus on county business and be more accessible to the public if they delegated representation on area boards. Besides his responsibilities as commissioner, Gelder serves on the Kitsap Health District board, CenCom Policy Board, Hood Canal Coordinating Council, Housing Kitsap, Kitsap County Emergency Management Council, Kitsap County Lodging Tax Committee, Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, Kitsap Transit, North Kitsap Conservation Project, Washington State Association of Counties board and Washington State Council on Aging.
Likewise, Garrido serves on 14 boards; District 3 Commissioner Josh Brown serves on seven.
The primary legislative powers of county commissioners are found in RCW 36.32.120. The powers include: construction and maintenance of public buildings; granting licenses; fixing and collecting the tax levies for the county; authorizing payments owed by the county and auditing all officers having control of county money; managing county property and county funds; prosecuting and defending all actions for and against the county; and making and enforcing by appropriate resolutions and law all such police and sanitary regulations not in conflict with state law.
Gelder, 45, said Tibbs’ candidacy was “not unexpected.” Gelder, chairman of the commission this year, announced his candidacy Feb. 28. Garrido announced her candidacy earlier in the month.
Gelder said his year in office has been a productive one.
“I’ve been able to work with the community to realize their dreams and aspirations,” he said. He’s an advocate for the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project, an effort to acquire 7,000 acres of North Kitsap forest land and shoreline from Pope Resources for use as public open space and trails.
“It’s an environmental asset, but also a tourism and economic development and quality of life asset that will make North Kitsap all that more desirable a place to live and build a business,” he said.
Last summer, he helped work out a compromise on construction of the proposed boat launch at Point No Point. Gelder said he and the commission have been working to make government more accessible. The county will begin using the SMARTgov software system in May, which will enable the public to file permit applications online and track the progress of their permit. Gelder said SMARTgov will give residents more empowerment in the permit process. He said building inspections are done five days a week. The county is looking at flex schedules and other measures to increase the number of days various agencies are open to the public.
Gelder said the commission is already looking at delegating some of its responsibilities on local boards, but noted that it makes sense for a commissioner to be involved if the county has a financial responsibility for the service provided.
Tibbs, 31, is sales manager for Ootopia Coffee Roasters. He dropped out of Bainbridge Island High School his junior year to help his single mom support the family, and swept floors, washed dishes and delivered newspapers.
“Ever since I was 13, I’ve made a buck,” he said last year.
In 1999, he joined Sound City Food in Bremerton, working his way up to general manager. He took some classes at Olympic College in 2000.
In 2001, he ran for North Kitsap School Board against Bethany McDonald, getting 2,753 votes to her 7,380.
In 2003, he started four espresso stands, but in two years was forced to seek Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. He operated the remaining two espresso stands until four years ago, when he joined Ootopia Coffee Roasters in Bremerton; he is Ootopia’s sales manager.
In 2005, he earned his GED to encourage his sister, who was working for her GED. In 2006, he ran for Public Utility District 1, getting 22,829 votes to Lloyd Berg’s 42,399. In 2008, he was appointed to the county Citizens Budget Committee and became vice chairman.