Kitsap's Jan Angel eyes seamless transition to State House
December 12, 2008 · Updated 6:18 PM
Outgoing SK commissioner expects state office will be a more
partisan exercise than she’s used to
When Jan Angel steps down as South Kitsap commissioner for a seat in the Washington State Legislature next month, it will change the complexion of both bodies.
Port Orchard will gain a local advocate in the House of Representatives, and the county commissioners will be an all-Democrat body for the first time in eight years.
During the transition period, Angel reflected on her accomplishments and expectations.
“I want to be remembered as someone who is always approachable,” she said. “That I listened with honesty and integrity and always gave people a fair shake.”
Angel, 62, began her political activity late in life, first running for office in her mid-50s. Previously, she worked in business and real estate, vocations that have guided her public service priorities.
“This stuff fires me up,” Angel said of public service. “There are so many things to be done. I want to be able to leave a legacy. I want my grand-kids to be able to say, ‘Grandma made this happen,’ and leave the place a little better than what it was before.”
Angel learned this week that she will be the ranking Republican on the Local Government and Housing Committees. This is fitting, given her background, since her eight years as county commissioner give her an understanding of the stresses of local government than someone without that experience.
This will put her in a position to moderate the imposition of unfunded mandates, the scourge of local governments.
“I think it’s important that we know where the money will come from before we pass a bill,” she said. “Too many times the Legislature passes a bill and then looks for the money to support it. When we pass something, we need to know whether it is sustainable.”
Angel is the only Republican in the local legislative delegation, and the only member of her party to win a local election this year.
Moving to the Legislature is also a perceptual change. Instead of being one of three with executive control she will become one in 98, and in the minority party.
“It is more partisan in the Legislature, which I will need to get used to,” she said. “But I think success will be relationship-based. If I approach people with an open mind, we will be able to listen to each other. There will be times when I don’t agree with my own party. It will depend on the issue.
“There are liberal and conservative views, and we don’t always agree,” Angel said. “But when you’re elected, it’s to do a job as a public servant and serve all of the citizens in your district.”
Angel’s departure also means that none of the commissioners listed on the plaque at the front door of the newly constructed Administration Building are still in office.
Aside from this permanent commemoration, this particular board made local history as the only all-female board.
While there were some bumps in the road during this time, Angel is proud of that group and its accomplishments.
“The three of us had a good working relationship,” she said. “There was good communication. If one of us were late or sick, we would cover for the other. Even though we had different perspectives, we had a nice relationship. We laughed together, we cried together, and did a lot of cutting-edge things.”
This contrasts with the current board, on which Angel serves with two men.
Even though the current configuration has accomplished much to rein in the budget, it is less satisfying for Angel.
“I don’t think the three of us work as well as the three women,” she said. “We aren’t team players. The two men have their own agendas and concerns about their own districts. The women kept each other informed. We had a ‘no-surprise’ rule, where we would tell each other if something was coming along that might be negative. That’s no longer the case.”
Angel said the hardest time for her was the period after Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown’s election, when he and former North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen sprang several surprise motions — including a $1 million allocation for the Port of Bremerton’s controversial Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project.
Angel found that the other commissioners were going behind her back and making promises about a facility that was in her district. In this case, she made her displeasure known through the press.
Also during this period, Angel decided she would not run for a third term as commissioner. She again made the announcement through the press, with Endresen and Brown learning about her decision at the same time as the general public.
Angel said this permanently soured her relationship with Endresen, who resigned shortly after to take a job with U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.
Angel got along much better with Endresen’s successor, Steve Bauer, and even reconsidered the decision to step down as commissioner.
“Steve is very respectful and is easy to communicate with,” she said. “We may have different opinions, but he will listen to my point of view and work to come up with a solution. He will repeat what he thinks you said back to you, which is a technique that I think he learned while working as a mediator.”
On the other hand, she has never warmed up to Brown.
“We have a very poor level of communication,” she said. “He won’t talk to me directly. He talks to Steve and Steve talks to me. This even happens when I am in the room.”
For the last year of her term, Angel has focused most of her attention on budget strategy, how the county can pay for services and live within its means.
After balancing the 2008 budget, the county was forced to dip into its reserves for 2009. This process has become the biggest lesson, both for Angel and her constituents.
“This is a wake-up call for all of us,” she said of the cost-cutting process. “In the future, those of us in government need to be as careful as we can be about spending. At the same time, we need to be able to support the most important needs of our citizens — health, public safety and education.”