Endresen evaluates term

North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen, having decided to accept an offer to become state director for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, last month announced her resignation. Endresen’s last day as commissioner is June 26 and a public farewell is scheduled at 3 p.m. on that date in the commissioners’ chambers in the County Administration Building in Port Orchard.

As the longest serving commissioner since 1989, Endresen, 50, reflected on her three and a half terms in office.

Q: What mark have you left on the county?

A: Ten years ago, our meetings weren’t on TV. We didn’t have a Web site. No one used e-mail to communicate. Now we have all those things. All our agendas are online, which makes it easier for people to participate in government.

During the last 10 years we have purchased a lot of parks and open spaces and have gotten criticized for this. But they are not making any undeveloped land anymore.

Once it’s developed, it will not turn into a park. So it was important to put this land aside for people who will be here in 50 or 100 years.

Q: You have received the credit — or blame — for torpedoing the NASCAR project. Is this a fair assessment?

A: I think that the International Speedway Corp. people had as much to do with the bill not making it out of the Legislature as anything I did. I was just representing my constituents.

The legislation they crafted was bad public policy. If they hadn’t included the sections about annexation and the admissions tax, I wouldn’t have had anything to testify against.

I wasn’t against the track. I was against the bill. They wanted too much. If they would have given the entire admissions tax to Kitsap County, we would have had something to talk about. That would have been a substantial amount of money.

We could have seen whether it was a good tradeoff, would the money we get be worth dealing with the increased traffic and other negative effects.

Q: You were commissioner for 10 years. How long before you felt confident?

A: I think everyone who is elected to office feels confident when they walk in the door. I was confident because of my city experience, but didn’t know about the breadth of the job.

People don’t realize how many things that a commissioner has to deal with, how much they need to learn about, how long it takes.

I am also learning new things, even after 10 years. That’s what I love about this job. there is always change. New programs come up.

It’s like Rosanne Rosannadanna, there’s always something.

I became really confident after my second budget cycle. The budget is really a policy document.

It’s more than just numbers. I think that after two budget cycles I knew what I was doing.

Q: But the question is how long it will take for your successor gets up to speed.

A: It depends on who gets the job, their experience and interest, and how much time they want to invest in really learning about the commissioner’s job.

They will also be in the unenviable position of running for office while they are in office. It’s very difficult to do both.

Q: How about the chairmanship?

A: I expect (Central Kitsap Commissioner) Josh (Brown) will become chair and serve throughout 2008, since he is not running for re-election.

Q: How will we get out of the current budget mess?

A: We are restricted about what we can tax and how much we can increase taxes. And we can’t provide the same services for less money.

We will have to put together some kind of ballot measure for 2010 but before we ask the voters for money we will need to make sure we have done everything we can to cut every cost that we can.

Then we will have to ask the public what programs they want to keep. How long do you want to wait to get a marriage license?

How long do you want to wait to get into small claims court? How do yuou want parks maintained? How long do you want to wait before somebody calls you back?

Q: By 2009 we could have an all-male board of commissioners. Is that a good or a bad thing?

A: The only thing that is constant is change. People come and go, and the commissioners change. I think that overall, women have a different style.

I think they ask more questions and are more collaborative than men. But I think that’s changing. The ability to collaborate is becoming more important.

It was exciting to have the first all-female board, we had fun with it.

Q: You were criticized quite a bit, both for your policies and on a personal level.

A: You need to be able to let the criticism roll off, and not engage. It is important that government officials be civil. There are some people in the community who don’t feel that way.

When they get frustrated they say mean and nasty things — even some things that aren’t true. You need to let it roll off, or it will eat you alive.

Most of the public knows who I am. They would say to me “I don’t agree with you all of the time, or even most of the time, but I appreciate where you stand.”

My personal mission statement was “leave it better than how you found it.” I exist for the citizens of Kitsap County so they can create the kind of community they want.

I have made decisions that even the people who liked me haven’t liked, but I've made them because they were the right thing to do for the long term.

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