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Brown makes first appointment to planning commission

By CHARLIE BERMANT

Kitsap County Writer

In his highest-profile appointment since taking office in January, Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown has named Bremerton resident Jim Sommerhauser to the Kitsap County Planning Commission.

“The commissioners are not able to clone themselves,” Sommerhauser said. “So it will be my job to act as a conduit to the people so the commissioners will get the proper information.”

Sommerhauser, 61, is a retired nuclear power operator both in the Navy and as a civilian. He is also a high-ranking Democratic Party official who campaigned vigorously for Brown in 2006.

Since moving back to Kitsap in 2001 (he previously lived in the area from 1973 to 1988), Sommerhauser has attended a majority of county commissioner meetings and study sessions along with Planning Commission meetings — although he travels to Arizona each year to attend Mariners’ spring training.

Sommerhauser said his strength is the ability to understand and explain complex documents.

“The purpose of the Planning Commission is to act as an investigative body to solicit public opinion about the actions of the Department of Community Development (DCD) on behalf of the commissioners,” he said. “The Planning Commission needs to summarize and quantify these issues, add its own opinion and then pass it on to the county commissioners.”

Sommerhauser doesn’t feel his lack of direct land-use experience is a drawback, adding “anyone who is a good listener and willing to research the issues would be capable of performing this job.”

Sommerhauser acknowledged criticism about his strong party affiliation but said it would not change how he does this job.

“The people who have criticized me on-line have no idea who I am and what I am about,” he said. “You can’t spend 20 years working with naval nuclear power without learning how to read, understand and follow rules. And you can’t spend 30 years involved in government without learning that it is a participatory exercise.”

Brown announced the appointment late last week. He only needs the additional support of one other commissioner to be confirmed to the position.

Tom Nevins, a planning commissioner who just announced his candidacy as a county commissioner, said Sommerhauser is “a quick study who is able to read and understand the law.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners (KAPO) Executive Director Vivian Henderson said, “I expect him to be fair and open-minded and consider KAPO’s views.”

Sommerhauser said he expected to serve as a planning commissioner for two four-year terms. He will not forgo next year’s spring training, but plans to address issues remotely.

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