Commissioner search in home stretch

Kitsap County Democrats will meet this Monday night to select three possibilities to fill the North Kitsap commissioner’s seat, ending the first round of the process to replace the resigning Chris Endresen.

“We have a very strong list of candidates,” said Bainbridge Island resident Kevin Swan, who is one of 97 precinct committee officers (PCOs) who will select three names from a list of 11 candidates. “I’m inspired by the willingness of people to seek this office and their commitment to public service.”

Swan is one of many PCOs who has not made a commitment to specific candidates and plans to vote for the ones who make the best impression on Monday night.

Twenty-three of the PCOs have taken office since Endresen announced her intention to resign. Elected officials serving as PCOs include County Clerk Dave Peterson, Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Chang and 35th District Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), although Appleton said she will not attend the meeting due to a previous commitment.

Of the commissioner candidates, Treasurer Barbara Stephenson and Bainbridge Island Activist Chris Van Dyk are PCOs.

Also serving as PCO is Katherine Brown of Bremerton, who works as Endresen’s administrative assistant. Brown, who will help to elect her new boss, is keeping her preferences to herself.

At Monday’s meeting, each of the candidates will be allowed to address the group for five minutes. This will be followed by the voting, a process that rivals the complexity of the average modern reality show. There will be three rounds of voting, for first, second and third position. If a single candidate does not earn a majority of the votes present, the bottom vote-getter is dropped and there will be another vote. The votes are repeated in this way until one candidate receives a majority.

Voting for the next position then begins, omitting the candidate that has already won but reinstating the low vote-getters from the previous round.

The process repeats until three names are selected.

After the three are selected they will be forwarded to the remaining county commissioners to decide on a single name. Here, Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown and South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel will need to agree, or Gov. Chris Gregoire will select from the three candidates.

PCOs are now preparing themselves by determining their own first, second and third choices. They may not get to support all three, since their first choice could lose in the first round.

They may then vote for the same person in the second round or select a different name, adding to the random unpredictability of the process.

When asked, some of the PCOs openly state their preferences, while others will do so while requesting no attribution. Several others decline to share their preferences at all.

Still, the most common responses were a preference for Planning Commissioner Tom Nevins and Hansville Resident Stephen Bauer, with an undecided position on the third choice.

“Tom is a real straight shooter,” said Gene Bullock of Poulsbo. “He is an analytical guy who listens to the issues and makes careful decisions. And he is a strong environmentalist.”

Judy Hartstone of Bainbridge Island said Kitsap County Public Information Officer Clarence Moriwaki was her first choice, but acknowledged Nevins had the “credentials” — meaning party loyalty — needed to win this particular contest. As an example, she felt that County Treasurer Barbara Stephenson did not deserve recommendation due to her more moderate stance.

Hartstone said Stephenson called her last week and asked for support, which Hartstone declined to provide.

“It was nothing personal,” Hartstone said. “But I don’t think she is a good party member.”

Added another Bainbridge Island PCO, “I’m from the progressive wing of the party and I will select someone who reflects this. Stephenson does not.”

Former party chair Sharon Peterson of Bremerton likes Stephenson, Moriwaki and DCD employee James Weaver. She doesn’t favor the 68-year-old Nevins because of his age.

“We want someone who can not only run next year but serve several terms after that,” she said.

River Curtis-Stanley of Port Orchard lives outside of the district in question but is involved nonetheless.

“This area is growing rapidly,” she said. “We need to have commissioners who represent the entire county instead of just their own district.”

During the campaign she is most impressed by candidates who are prepared for the questions we are asking and won’t need a lot of preparation.

“I wanted to like (Bainbridge Island activist) Chris Van Dyk but he wasn’t really prepared to answer the questions,” she said. “We need someone with significant planning and budget experience. As treasurer, Barbara Stephenson knows the fine points of the budget and where to make the cuts.”

Like Peterson, Curtis-Stanley also favors Moriwaki and Weaver. And like most PCOs, she will maintain an open mind until the vote takes place.

Endresen, who attended the candidate forum on June 7, said she is not making any endorsements, saying, “If I were to single someone out it would look like I was trying to pick my successor, and that could backfire.”

Brown is also publicly circumspect about his preferences, but said he will share his opinion of the candidates with any PCO who asks.

Angel is also on the sidelines for the time being.

“I am not looking for a good Democrat,” she said. “I am looking for a good commissioner. Hopefully the Democrats want both. I hope we can find someone who can work as a team.”

Aside from those already named, candidates include Robert Gelder, Alfonso Grajeda, Lynn Nordby, Dennis Sexton and Ed Stern.

The meeting will begin with speeches at 6 p.m. on June 18 at the Events Center on the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. Each candidate will be given five minutes to speak and voting is expected to begin at about 7 p.m.

The meeting is open to the public after accommodating all of the PCOs into the conference space.

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