Abel sweeps into PO mayor's office

When Port Orchard Mayor Jay Weatherill officially leaves office at the end of the year, he will have been in the seat for exactly 20 years and one month.

Weatherill, who has served as mayor since 1983, was un-seated by first-time political candidate Kim Abel in last Tuesday’s elections.

Although the results were technically unofficial — the elections division of the Kitsap County Auditor’s Office has another 500-plus absentee votes to count — the numbers gave Abel a clear 20 percent lead over Weatherill.

The first tally, which gave Abel 591 votes to Weatherill’s 393, came as a surprise to Abel.

“It’s still just a bit unbelievable — overwhelming,” she said.

Abel campaigned hard to overcome Weatherill’s substantial name recognition. Weatherill significantly outspent the challenger in election advertising, which included at least a dozen color newspaper ads and personal testimonies from Weatherill’s political supporters. Abel went door-to-door as her means of connecting with potential voters and said she was gratified that the city’s citizens chose to support her calls for change.

“It’s not just about change,” Abel said. “It’s about the future of Port Orchard.

Weatherill, who left on a hunting trip two days after the election, said he was waiting for the official election results.

“I have always believed in dealing with fact,” he said. “Right now it is just a guess.”

In order for Weatherill to overtake Abel, he will have to get at least 350 — 70 percent — of the uncounted absentee ballots. Because absentee votes only had to be postmarked by Nov. 4, it is unclear when the last vote will be tallied. Another count was scheduled for yesterday afternoon, but the results were unavailable at press time.

Abel said the biggest challenge she now faces is getting up to speed on city issues. She said she plans to sit down with the department heads and meet with the citizen’s advisory group assigned to give advice on potentially re-drawing the city’s Urban Growth Area boundaries. Abel also hopes to take advantage of course offered by the Association of Washington Cities for newly elected officials.

She said she hopes to meet with the mayor frequently in the next two months in an effort to help the handover go as smoothly as possible.

“I want to work with the mayor to get any information he wants to give me,” Abel said.

Weatherill said he always saw his time in office as a service he offered to the community. He said he was sorry to be leaving but that the decision had ultimately been in the citizens’ hands.

“I have enjoyed every minute of (being mayor) and I have no regrets,” Weatherill said.

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