Kitsap County Democrats pick three finalists for commission seat

Kitsap County Democrats voted Tuesday night to forward candidates from Brownsville, Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo to fill departing County Commissioner Steve Bauer's seat.

The finalists are, in order, Rob Gelder of Brownsville, Clarence Moriwaki of Bainbridge Island and Linda Berry-Maraist of Poulsbo.

Commissioners Josh Brown and Charlotte Garrido will choose Bauer's replacement. Because commissioners cannot make a selection until after Bauer departs March 9, the final decision will not likely be made until March 14, Brown said, adding that the commissioners will likely interview the finalists individually.

The three finalists were picked from a field of five. Forty-two of the county's 56 precinct committee officers were present for the vote.

Businesswoman Laurie Serdahl, who lives outside Poulsbo, and Sam Granato, the last mayor of Winslow and first mayor of Bainbridge Island, also vied for the position.

The candidates spent nearly two hours fielding questions submitted by precinct committee officers and differed little in their positions on a range of subjects, from the Growth Management Act and the importance of the ferry system to the balance between the environment and economic development.

Gelder and Moriwaki both competed for a county commissioner vacancy in 2007, ultimately filled by Bauer.
Gelder touted his experience on the county's Citizens Budget Committee, while Moriwaki emphasized his past jobs as a county public information officer and policy analyst, as well as a former Tukwila city councilman and spokesman for Sound Transit. Berry-Maraist discussed her work with the Kitsap Public Facilities District, the Poulsbo City Council and leadership in volunteer efforts to build public projects in North Kitsap, such as playgrounds.

Precinct Committee Officer Gene Bullock, whose first choice was Gelder, said he was looking for candidates who pledged to protect the environment and didn't put development ahead of preserving wildlife habitat.
"What I'm listening for is an indication whether when push comes to shove, they would lean toward economic development at the expense of the environment," he said.

Marilyn Boynton, vice chairwoman of the Kitsap County Democrats, was also pleased with the candidates.
"I was impressed with all of them," she said. "They went through a grueling set of questions an they all handled them very well."

Brown, the board's senior member, said that while he isn't looking for candidates' stances on specific issues, his top priorities are selecting a candidate with integrity, good management skills, an understanding of county government and ability to listen and help solve problems.

"In any job, you learn on the job," Brown said. "You have to realize you don't have all the answers. Being collaborative, that gets you a lot further than thinking you have the answer to everything."

County commissioner terms last four years, but Bauer's successor will have to run in 2011 and 2012 to complete his term, which expires in 2012.

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