Commissioner search process continues

The process of selecting a replacement for resigning North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen moved into its final stages this week, as county Democrats narrowed the list to three recommended candidates from a field of 11.

Hansville consultant Stephen Bauer, Kitsap County Planning Commissioner Tom Nevins and County Spokesperson Clarence Moriwaki were the respective first, second and third choices of local precinct committee officers at a Monday night meeting at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

Endresen will leave office this week to take a position as state director for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. Since Endresen was elected as a Democrat, the local party is charged with selecting potential replacements.

While the new commissioner will serve out Endresen’s current term, the names were chosen with an eye toward the 2008 general election.

All the candidates have committed to that race. For this reason, the notion of electability was more important to some delegates than the candidate’s positions.

Monday's meeting culminated a two-week campaign period during which the 11 candidates solicited votes from 97 precinct committee officers (PCOs).

Going into the meeting, many of the PCOs expressed a preference for Nevins and Bauer while saying they were undecided on a third position.

The surprise became how Bauer was the first of the candidates to win a majority, done so on the third ballet.

”I expected that Tom and I would be the front-runners,” Bauer said. “But I was surprised to come in first.”

The first two ballots failed to award a majority the fourth and fifth contests had decisive contests. For the final positions, Nevins and Moriwaki each earned 57 votes out of 87 cast on separate ballots.

The eliminated candidates with the highest total vote totals were Barbara Stephenson with 25 and Chris Van Dyk with 17. All of the others earned single-digit totals throughout the evening.

Nevins is the best known of the three, having served as a Planning Commissioner for six years.

Bauer, who helped to conduct an external audit of the Kitsap County Department of Community Development two years ago, was characterized by some PCOs as “coming out of nowhere” into an early front-runner position.

Moriwaki, who began in his current job one week before Endresen announced she would resign, worked as a part-time staffer for U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island) for four years.

Since this was a partisan appointment, Moriwaki earned his third-place spot partially for his decades of service as a party operative and officeholder.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, a Republican, and Democratic Central Commissioner Josh Brown will choose one name from the three, with the announcement expected on July 2.

Until then, the commissioners will meet with the candidates individually, and then deliberate in an executive session that will be closed to the press and the public.

All three commissioners were out of town last week, so the individual meetings have not yet been scheduled. They will need to take place this week in order for the announcement to be made by the target date.

In the meantime, the commissoner hopefuls are completing several forms to submit to the county prior to their interviews.

“It’s mostly stuff they had before,” Bauer said. “I guess they just wanted it in a different format.”

If Bauer is selected, he said he only needed to tie up a few loose ends and would be ready to serve. Nevins would resign his spot on the Planning Commission and then select his own replacement.

Moriwaki would to transition from his current spokesman position, and would also have some input into his own replacement.

Moriwaki, who already has a window office on the fourth floor, has already said he will remain in that office if he is selected as commissioner.

The first regular meeting with the new commissioner will take place at 10 a.m. on July 8 at the commissioners’ chambers in Port Orchard.

At that point they will elect a new chair, since Endresen was serving in that capacity for 2007.

Endresen said she expected Brown to assume the chairmanship through 2008, since he is not running for office. It would be his first stint as chair, and would come seven months after he assumed office.

Angel, who was chair in 2003 and 2006, has announced she will not run again in 2008.

So if she were to assume the chair either in 2007 or 2008 she would not need to serve as chair while running for re-election.

According to several delegates Brown, who has remained publicly neutral during the selection, attempted to steer votes toward Bauer. And while he maintained this neutrality at this week’s meeting he noted that “the choice is clear.”

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