Kitsap DCD director steps down

For the second time in less than two years, the Kitsap County Department of Community Development has lost its director.

Cindy Baker, who had served in the job for just over a year, resigned this past weekend “to pursue other options.”

County Spokesperson P.J. Ramos said that no single event precipitated Baker’s resignation.

The action was sudden. During Baker’s Friday meetings she gave no indication of her imminent departure.

Baker leaves just as the county begins work in earnest on its comprehensive plan, which is due for completion in December. This immediately follows the lengthy and controversial development of the critical areas ordinance (CAO), which requires a similar multiple-input process.

The comprehensive plan is one of the most important community development documents, and it appears Kitsap County’s could be largely developed without a director.

“This won’t affect customer service,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel. “We have a strong team of managers running a tight ship.”

For the time being, assistant director Jim Bolger will take on the day-to-day departmental details, while County Administrator Cris Gears will make sure it has all the resources it needs.

In the meantime, the county will re-examine the position and determine what kind of person should fill this spot.

“We’re going to take our time and see what needs to happen before we bring another person in there,” Gears said. “There have been problems in that department for a long time, and some things need to happen first.”

Offering a timely metaphor, Gears said, “You want to make sure when you have an important game the coach will keep the team on the field and get us to the playoffs.”

Gears called the development of the new comprehensive plan “a remarkable, difficult challenge,” which Baker felt she could not accomplish properly.

Baker, who is reportedly out of town, could not be reached for comment.

The idea of reconfiguring the DCD job appeals to Kitsap County Planning Commission member Lary Coppola, who said, “I think the DCD director job may be a no-win situation. It’s a bit too big for one person to run effectively. Maybe it’s time for the commissioners to split it into several departments and put different people in charge.”

Coppola suggested that permitting, planning and fire services could be allocated to different departments.

Baker was hired by former DCD director Kamuron Gurol in December 2003. When Gurol resigned the following April for family reasons, Baker stepped in as interim director. She immediately applied for the job when it was posted and an outside search firm selected Baker from a list of 45 applicants.

Baker was popular with most of her constituents and earned compliments from those who had criticized DCD in the past.

“Cindy did everything the commissioners wanted when it came to the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO),” said Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners Executive Director Vivian Henderson. “It would be nice if DCD would get settled and organized, and head in a single direction.”

“I’m overwhelmed by the high rate of turnover for this job,” said Planning Commission member Mike Gustavson. “Why are so many people leaving? They should be more stable. We’re getting some good people, but they’re running away from here.”

Gustavson said the county commissioners should take responsibility for the working environment, saying, “The problem is at the top.”

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