Rice will challenge Geiger for seat on council

In past years, Port Orchard City Councilman Bob Geiger has had a ritual when running for re-election.

He doesn’t campaign, doesn’t leaflet and doesn’t fundraise. He simply reminds people to vote and lets the ballots fall where they may.

Despite — or perhaps because of — Geiger’s election philosophy, he has held his seat for nearly 40 years, longer than anyone else currently on the council.

This year, however, local businessman Ron Rice hopes to give Geiger a run for his money.

Rice turned in his paperwork on the last day of election filing week. It wasn’t cold feet, he said — he just wanted to make sure no one else coveted the spot.

What matters to him, Rice explained, is getting fresh perspective on the council.

Geiger, he continued, has been there too long to generate much in the way of new ideas or approaches to the city’s problems.

“He’s been there for 40 years,” he said. “He’s kind of the old school.”

Rice wants the city to get back to the basics, particularly when it comes to its voluminous ordinances.

The ever-expanding sign ordinance, he said, is a great example of over-regulation. The ordinance, Rice explained, started out at maybe a half dozen pages. Currently, he said, the page count is over 50 and likely to increase further.

The problem, Rice said, is the council tackles issues that aren’t a matter of public health or safety and then spends forever trying to make the rules palatable to everyone.

The recent attempt to control boat and RV parking on private property, he said, is another great example of this phenomenon.

“I think it’s wasting the city council’s time and the staff’s time to try and find a way to control that,” Rice said.

Rice said he was strongly in favor of concentrating the council’s attention on issues that have more effect on the overall well-being of Port Orchard’s citizens. Most important, he said, is the matter of attracting living-wage destination jobs to the city.

At this point, he pointed out, only the county offices fill that criteria — most other major hiring centers in the city either pay too little or offer too little in the way of benefits to support a South Kitsap family.

Rice said he notes all the statistics that talk about the commuting flow from South Kitsap to King and Pierce counties and wonders why people have to leave the county to find a good job.

“I’d like to see more opportunities for people to stay here and work,” he said.

Ron Rice at a glance

* Born in 1941 in Bremerton, a self-described “Navy brat”;

* Received most of his elementary education in South Kitsap, but graduated from high school in California;

* Attended the University of Texas on a Navy ROTC scholarship;

* Lives on his family property at the corner of Sedgwick Road and Sidney Avenue, land that has been in the Rice family since 1928;

Rice has worked as an electrician for 20 years, most recently as a contractor in Seattle. He also previously worked for Alaska Airlines, taking early retirement in 1995. Rice owns several of his own small businesses, including Briarkirk Barn Espresso.

Rice is married to Patricia Rice and has six adult children — the youngest is 18. In his spare time he rents out a small-scale amphitheater he built near his house on Sedgwick.

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