Opinion

Search for DCD director winding down

The selection of Kitsap County’s new Department of Community Development director shifts into high gear this week, when four finalists will submit to a battery of interviews and discuss their plans for the department, one of the busiest and most controversial in the county.

The four candidates will be interviewed by the Board of Commissioners and three different “stakeholder” panels on Monday and Tuesday. They will also meet the public at 5 p.m. on Monday in the conference room on the third floor of the Public Works Building in Port Orchard.

The Board of Commissioners will accept all public input and may make the decision as early as Wednesday. The final choice will be announced at the Dec. 6 meeting at the latest.

The department has not had a permanent head since April, when Kamuron Gurol resigned after a little more than a year on the job. Since then, Cindy Baker, hired by Gurol just five months earlier, has run the office on an interim basis.

Baker indicated interest in the permanent position almost immediately after Gurol's resignation but has always favored completing the process to prove her capabilities.

“Cindy has never misrepresented herself,” said Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent. “She always let people know she was interim director and never acted out of those bounds.”

“I’ve been impressed by Cindy from the start and her ability to listen,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel.

Since her ascension, Baker has performed two jobs — that of the director and assistant director (for which she was originally hired). Lent lauded her effort while pointing out that Gurol did much the same thing before hiring Baker.

Should Baker get the job, she would immediately recruit an assistant. If not, she said, “I assume I would continue in the job I was hired to do.”

Baker, 55, is single with a grown son. She commutes from Seattle but plans to move to Kitsap after the final decision.

As interim director, she has not deviated substantially from Gurol’s direction. However, her ability to listen to various viewpoints has earned the respect of both the construction and conservation communities. Said Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel. “Whenever I ask Cindy a question I know she will respond quickly.”

“We’ve taken several new actions this year,” Baker said. “We continue to identify programs and processes that need to be smoothed out. Even if people disagree with the results, they know their input is considered.”

After Gurol's resignation, the county decided to recruit a headhunter to make initial recommendations. This will cost between $25,000 and $30,000 but actually represented a cost savings over Gurol's $90,000 budgeted salary.

Baker made the initial cut along with four others, but one dropped out in favor of another job.

Aside from Baker, there are four other candidates:

• Bob Martin, 59, is the former director of community development for Clallam County. Martin served from 1995 to 2003 when it became an elected post. He ran and lost.

According to North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen, this does not represent a black mark. “This shouldn't be an elected position,” she said. But Martin learned from the experience.

“The interaction with the community made me better at my job,” he said. “Unfortunately, I lost the election.”

As a resident in proximity to Kitsap, Martin said he is already acquainted with many of the more important issues, such as developing a comprehensive plan and maintaining environmental health.

“It is the same scope with a smaller county,” he said.

Martin said he has a strength in the permitting process and echoes local commissioners’ opinions that the Growth Management Act “needs to be fixed.”

Martin, who now runs a horse farm near Sequim, said he will move to Kitsap County if he gets the job.

“It will be difficult to handle this job if you’re not part of the community,” he said.

Martin is married with two grown children.

• Keith Stahley, 43, is planning director for Hickory, N.C., a job he has held since 1999. He said he will be missed at his job, which continues to be a challenge. Still, he considered the Pacific Northwest prior to taking his current job and is perusing the area again as he seeks to move his career forward.

Stahley feels well-versed in growth issues and is currently dealing with a topic familiar to Kitsap Citizens — the impact of a large “box store” on a small community.

“When you have change, you have conflict,” he said. “We ended up coming out in favor of the store. But I understand the concerns, like the impact on small business, traffic and safety.”

Stahley is not familiar with specifics of the local growth management act, but has dealt with such regulations before.

Prior to Hickory, he worked in South Florida, which he described as heavily regulated.

“Most areas that are both rural and urban have the same issues,” he said. “There is the provision of services, budgetary constraints and a growing community.”

• Andrea Surratt, 37, is currently town manager for Wrightsville Beach, N.C. She supervises a staff of 80 (the approximate size of DCD) in a resort town, an area that grows from 2,500 to 40,000 in the summertime.

She feels her experience with coastal growth will help to deal with Kitsap issues, including flood plain accommodation and permitting.

If hired, she plans to first examine the department for ways to increase efficiency, then work with the community.

“In an area that’s anticipating growth and property values are high, people will always try to protect what they have,” she said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of heated situations, where I end up mediating.”

Both Stahley and Surratt are married, with two small children.

All three Kitsap County commissioners have said the outside candidate would need to prove themselves as more skilled than Baker in order to be considered.

“I like Cindy, but we need to follow procedure,” Endresen said. “This is not a done deal.”

The commissioners plans to discuss the direction of the DCD at their Jan. 6 retreat.

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