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Special Report, Port Orchard Elections: The City Council

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Port Orchard voters have a large pool of City Council hopefuls to choose from in this November’s election, with five different seats up for grabs.

Incumbent appointed Councilman Robert Putaansuu is running unopposed, but incumbents and newcomers have contestants for each position.

Longtime Council members John Clauson and Rick Wyatt are each facing the first opponents of their political careers.

After more than 45 years on the Council, Councilman Robert Geiger decided to not seek another term, opening the position up for a new face on the board.

Here’s a quick overview of each of the races:

• POSITION 1

Incumbent Rita DiIenno will seek a second term on the Council, and faces newcomer James Colebank.

DiIenno is the president and business agent for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1384. DiIenno said she wants to run again following the accomplishments of the current council to work together and come to a compromise.

DiIenno believes the council has not always sought out a middle ground, but, “The last year’s been much more comfortable to work with the council,” she said.

She also hopes to implement the development ideas outlined in the EDAW plan, which some have said has been shelved and forgotten by the Council.

“I don’t believe it’s on the shelf,” DiIenno said.

Colebank continues to pursue a political position in Port Orchard. When Tye Moore left the Port Orchard City Council, Colebank applied but Putaansuu was selected instead.

Since then, Colebank has continued to attend public meetings.

Colebank was previously a program manager for the Business and Strategic Planning Office at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Colebank is not running specifically against DiIenno, but wished to seek a position on the council and opted for her seat.

He has been uncritical of the Downtown Overlay District, assuming that the current Council has made its decision after a lot of consideration.

“I don’t like Monday morning quarterbacking anything,” Colebank said.

• POSITION 4

Clauson, who has been on the City Council for six terms, faces Cindi Lucarelli in this election. Lucarelli is one of many downtown residents disappointed by the Council’s decision on the Overlay District.

Clauson is the service development director for Kitsap Transit, and Lucarelli is an independent business owner.

Lucarelli said she wants to update an implement the EDAW and incremental annexation. She has questioned the building sizes of potential developments, citing the small-town character of Port Orchard and the impact on traffic.

“We already have a congested traffic situation every day in our downtown, of which the hundreds of commuters passing through are not supporting our local businesses,” Lucarelli said.

Clauson wants to continue to work on economic development in the area. He said Port Orchard is one of the few cities in Washington that does not require impact fees for new developments, and worries over the growing costs in the city’s budget.

“It’s fast approaching the level that the revenue stream that’s coming in from things like property tax and sales tax will not be able to cover it,” Clauson said.

• POSITION 5

Incumbent Rick Wyatt opted to run again for his seat after considering running for mayor, and now faces Fred Olin, who has stated he is running specifically against Wyatt.

Wyatt is the owner of Rick’s Barber Shop and has been on the Council for 12 years. Olin is a retired high school vice principal and educator.

Olin blames Wyatt for derailing the EDAW plan, arguing that Wyatt voted to accept the plan, but then voting against implementing it.

“I felt that we had been betrayed,” Olin said.

Wyatt said he supported the EDAW plan and notes that he was one of just seven members of the Council.

Wyatt ultimately decided to run again because of the large number of open positions in this election.

“I feel that I have some experience that I can pass on to our citizens and to our new council members,” Wyatt said.

• AT-LARGE

The at-large seat, held previously by Geiger, is the only one with all new faces.

Jerry Childs, who took the lead in the primary, and Dick Fitzwater are both running for the position.

Childs is a Seattle Fire Department captain and is retiring at the end of this year. Fitzwater was previously manager of Karcher Creek Sewer District.

Childs came into the race following his involvement in the conversation on the Downtown Overlay District. Having attended a number of meetings, he saw areas where he thought he could improve the process.

He said he hopes to bring the Council in closer communication with residents and has proposed holding Council meetings outside of City Hall and in specific neighborhoods, inviting residents to attend and discuss the concerns of their neighborhood.

Fitzwater said the Council has lost its ability to make decisions quickly and hopes to streamline the decision-making process and help the planning and engineering staff respond quickly to residents.

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