Mayor hopefuls a study in contrasts
June 12, 2008 · Updated 9:53 AM
"The race for mayor of Port Orchard is arguably the most colorful aspect of this years political landscape in the South Kitsap area.When voters go to the polls or punch holes on their absentee ballots, they will be making a choice between two starkly contrasting candidates.For 16 years, Mayor Jay Weatherill has presided over the citys affairs by presiding City Council meetings and taking part in several regional governmental councils.For Robert (Bobby G.) Gallegos, this is his first time running for office.Weatherill can hang his hat on the successful completion of the new City Hall. Plus, according to Weatherill, the budget has been balanced during his administration, and a solid contract was signed with South Kitsap Fire District 7, saving the city about $130,000 every year.Gallegos, 49, has worked for 30 years at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Hes no novice when it comes to philanthropy and community involvement, either. Gallegos has been a member and local chairman of the national Masters Swimmers Association, he was elected chairman of the citys citizen advisory committee on growth managment earlier this decade, and, for many years, he built floats during his spare time for the Fathoms o Fun parade.Before Weatherill even started stomping down the campaign trail, he has been plagued by criticisms characterizing him as an aloof, out-of-touch mayor who rarely if ever returns phone calls and who rarely, if ever, voices an opinion. Gallegos, meanwhile, has been haunted by his past. In 1980, he spent at least 30 days in jail for vehicular homicide in the death of a friend. Hes been cited for two other traffic-related incidents since that time.At a Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday, Weatherill said hes running for his fifth term because he enjoys his work, hes good at it and the city has been running smoothly for a while.I am running for mayor because I want to give people a choice, Gallegos said. Thats how our democratic process works. Also, Im running so I can help bring issues residents are concerned about to the forefront.Both are confident in their respective campaigns and have been working on them extensively leading up to the Nov. 2 general election.While Gallegos has gone doorbelling by walking around town and meeting and talking with residents, Weatherill has called up many constituents.During these conversations, both candidates ask that residents look at their stands on issues theyve brought up.CITY HALLGallegos and Weatherill differ on how much the new City Hall that opened this year actually cost to build. While Weatherill claims the price tag is around $6 million, Gallegos said the true cost will be $9 million once interest payments on a federal loan are totalled after 20 years.Gallegos also noted constituents are concerned that City Hall was too elaborately built and is more than the city actually needs to fulfill its day-to-day duties. A new City Hall was built because the existing one was found seismically unstable, Weatherill explained. It was built that size because it is supposed to last, and was built to last, for the next 50 to 70 years. And it did not cost $9 million. I can tell you that right now.GROWTHGrowth is a fundamental part of life, Weatherill said. But we should first ask whether we have the services to support annexation. Do we have enough water and sewer services?Take McCormick Woods, Weatherill said Residents there want to be annexed into Port Orchard. If the infrastructure exists, then that group of people should get it, so long as the Growth Management Act is followed, he said. And what the city can do to help that happen is get input from people living between McCormick Woods and the city limits and inside McCormick Woods. Were dedicated to that.Gallegos said he is in favor of growth, so long as the needs of Port Orchards neighborhoods are met first.Although density should dictate where to incorporate, Gallegos said the city should focus more on insuring streets are smoothly paved, sidewalks are built and the quality of life in Port Orchard is preserved.CITY MANAGERGallegos said Port Orchard should eventually create a city manager position.Right now, he said, the city engineer is juggling that role among others. A full-time city manager would have more time to answer questions constituents have, he said.If anything, I can see the city hiring another full-time city planner, Weatherill said, noting that the administrative side of the city is running very smoothly.Weatherill said the decision to install a city manager would come directly from the City Council. Then the question becomes, can we afford it, he added.MORALSOne of the biggest roles a public servant has is taking responsibility for the lives of people around him or her, Gallegos said. Gallegos said he learned that lesson as a human being when he failed the lives of two dear friends. Once in 1980 in the fatal traffic accident, the other in the 1970s when his wife died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Gallegos was not responsible for her death, but he said he feels guilty about it, nevertheless.Ive learned a poignant lesson from those experiences, Gallegos said. Weatherill said hes lived his life right for as long as he can remember.Ive always been a responsible citizen, Weatheril said, citing his 30 years as a volunteer firefighter. We were literally saving lives. In one way or another, Ive been involved in enforcing the law most of my life. In fact, Ive patterned my life around the community I live in. I try to give more than I take.My family is also involved with the community, and I believe that they got that training from me. Im about as community-spirited as a person can get.PUBLIC AVAILABILITYGallegos said that, if elected, he would make himself available to constituents whenever he is needed. He promises to hold regular office hours when he can be reached.Gallegos says constituents are concerned that their current mayor is not responsive to their queries. Weatherill disagrees. The city regularly mails newsletters along with utility bills giving residents the skinny on city projects, planning and day-to-day business, he said. Surveys are also sent out on a quarterly basis, so staff can tally opinions on basic services such as police and fire. The questionnaires also give citizens a shot at voicing whatever concerns them about the city, Weatherill said.TIME COMMITMENTWeatherill said he commits at least three hours every day on city-related issues.Gallegos said he would spend as much time as it takes to get any mayoral duties finished. He noted hes already received the support of his supervisor at the shipyard to do so.The mayors salary is $14,000 annually, which includes medical benefits."