Two will challenge Huntington for seat on port commission

In 1989, Port Orchard resident Larry Stokes walked away from the seat he’d held on the Port of Bremerton’s Board of Commissioners for a decade and vowed to never run again.

But on Friday he broke that vow, filing to challenge incumbent Mary Ann Huntington, who joined the board the same year Stokes left.

“I’m unhappy with the taxing situation,” Stokes said, explaining that his tax bill from the port increased this year by at least $200 when the port raised the amount it collects from its district.

According to the Port of Bremerton’s 2007 budget summary, its income collected from the “General Tax Levy” will be $6,375,135 — a 150 percent increase from 2006, when the amount was only $2,368,902.

“I know how the port operates, and we never increased taxes when I was on the board, even though we purchased waterfront property, put in the marina park, and put the guest moorage in,” he said. “We never raised taxes, and we never raised our compensation.”

Stokes said he does not own a boat or plane, but “I’ve paid taxes here for 36 years and I care about Kitsap County,” said Stokes, who is now 68 and moved to Port Orchard four years after moving to the county in 1971.

“I really think they should have come up with something different for us taxpayers,” Stokes said, explaining that while he researched the port’s tax increase and determined “they didn’t do anything illegal,” he was still angry enough to decide to run.

“It’s time for me to come out of retirement and run,” he said. “I figure if you’re gonna complain, you gotta get involved.”

Huntington’s other challenger, Martin “Marty” DiIenno, said he was also inspired to run largely out of frustration.

“I want to see a turnaround in the (port’s) fiscal policies,” said DiIenno, explaining that as a boat owner who has rented a slip at the Port Orchard Marina for 20 years, his “number one” complaint currently is the “7.5 percent rate increase we pay every six months.”

However, he was actually inspired to run four years ago when he said he and other boat owners got into a dispute with Port Orchard Marina officials over what they believed where inflated charges on certain tax payments.

“I told myself that the next time a seat opens up, ‘I’m running for it,’” he said, explaining that the residents finally got the rebate they felt they deserved, but “it took three-and-a-half years to get.”

DiIenno said he felt the commissioners at the time, including Huntington, “were zero-help to us in getting that resolved. We took care of ourselves.”

DiIenno, 62, moved to the area 11 years ago, and said that for more than eight of those years he and his wife, Rita, who serves on the Port Orchard City Council, lived aboard their boat in the marina.

Now retired, DiIenno said he worked for most of his life as a “carpenter and cabinetmaker,” and this is his first time running for public office.

Stokes founded the Port Orchard-based Stokes Auction, Inc. but said he recently retired and his daughter will be taking over the business.

Huntington is running for her fourth term as port commissioner, and points to accomplishments such as rebuilding the PO marina after a snowstorm, the building of the new Bremerton Marina which is scheduled to open next spring, and “forming a partnership with the Port Orchard Soroptomists to complete (my) dream of a children’s playground at the Marina Park.”

She did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

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