Gurol leaves DCD post

The planning process in Kitsap County hit a speed bump this week when Department of Community Development director Kamuron Gurol resigned for family reasons.

Due to significant county development and complicated regulations, the DCD director is one of the most strenuous in county government. Gurol had purchased a house in Manchester, but ended up commuting from Mercer Island on most days.

“I struggled with this for a while,” Gurol, 41, said. “I love this job, It’s a wonderful opportunity. I love the team we have here. It was not an easy decision. But my heart overruled my head. I only have one mother, and one dad. I only have two children. I found that I could not do the job effectively with one foot on either side of Puget Sound. I wasn’t finding the balance.”

He worked in the position for less than a year, spending a significant percentage of his time catching up from past neglect and attempting to fill empty staff positions. In recent months the department has become more effective, according to observers. For instance, Commissioner Chris Endresen said Gurol “has set the direction for his department.”

“We now have a better team dynamic,” Gurol said. “There are better systems in place in order to make good decisions. We’ve hired some good people who have the ability to serve citizens well.”

Gurol, whose last day is April 9, will be replaced by Assistant Director Cindy Baker on an interim basis. Baker, who started in December, said she took the Kitsap job in order to work with Gurol.

County Administrator Malcolm Fleming will supervise the search for a new director, which is in process. Fleming has already contacted the other finalists from last year but found no interest.

“Times are different now,” Fleming said. “When we were looking before the economy was much worse and everyone wanted to stay put. Now that it’s better, people are more likely to take a chance.”

The job will probably be advertised nationwide. Baker does not know whether she will seek the job on a permanent basis. Former DCD assistant director Darryl Piercy also has not decided whether he will apply for the position.

Commissioner Patty Lent said the situation was “frustrating,” but feels it won’t take too long to find a replacement. She’s not convinced that Baker would be a good choice, saying that Baker’s strength is in permitting and “I wouldn’t want to pull her away from that for too long.” She doesn’t favor recruiting from the old resume pile: If someone wasn’t worth a callback last year there is no reason to settle for second best today.

“I don’t want to go backwards and get someone that we had before,” she said.

Much of the controversy Gurol faced had to do with the growth management act (GMA), a state guideline for controlling development. The GMA gets criticisms from all sides; some businesses find it too restrictive while ecologists feel it doesn’t go far enough to protect the environment.

“The GMA is law, and I need to enforce the law,” he said. “But I think it is a good law. Managing growth is the right thing to do.”

Still, his support of the GMA prompted some citizens to get personal. And in a recent planning commission meeting, a commissioner confronted him with a comment bordering on the obscene.

Gurol asked the commissioner to repeat the comment, then proceeded as if it hadn’t occurred.

“All comments, critical or complementary, are valuable,” he said, “When someone is critical I try to listen to the intent of the feeling behind the words rather than the emotion. The public’s business can move at a glacial pace. So people are frustrated.”

Some of these comments and criticisms were barbed. Silverdale developer Ron Ross said was “not sorry to see him leave. He was more concerned with meeting state timelines than getting stuff done for the county. He should have been taking care of the county and telling the state to wait another year.”

Kitsap County Association of Realtors lobbyist Vivian Henderson said she was “happy to see him go. He always was pushing his own agenda and favored the GMA.” But her colleague Mike Eliason said he appreciated how Gurol made sure that all points of view were represented.

Endresen noticed this, saying that “a lot of people were impolite to Kamuron.

“Land use is a lightning rod,” she said. “It’s a controversial issue that calls for a lot of balance from a lot of sides. The answers are somewhere in the middle. I think Kamuron did an excellent job.”

Even as Gurol prepares to clean out his office, he speaks of Kitsap in the first person. He still refers to “us” instead of “you.”

“Sometimes it seems like we have to say yes and no in the same sentence,” Gurol said. “The unfortunate aspect of growth management is that you have dual responsibilities. We’re at a stage where the choices we make will have a lasting effect 20 years from now. We can’t just think about today’s generation, we need consider future generations. How can we leave a legacy they can feel good about? I really believe this.”

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