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Democrats mull Endresen’s replacement

North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen’s resignation continues to stir the local political pot. While the Democratic Party is in the midst of establishing a schedule to put forth its recommendations, candidates are deciding whether or not to put themselves forward.

Since Endresen is a Democrat, it is the party that will nominate three of its members for consideration by the remaining county commissioners.

At that point, Democrat Josh Brown and Republican Jan Angel will need to select one of those names to finish Endresen’s term. If they cannot decide, Gov. Chris Gregoire — also a Democrat — will choose from the same names.

Most of those involved in the process, including Angel, don’t expect that Gregoire will need to get involved.

“Josh Brown will select the next commissioner,” said County Clerk Dave Peterson, a high-ranking Democrat. “It won’t do any good for Jan to drag her feet on a candidate that Josh supports. If it goes to the governor, she will call Josh and ask him who he wants.”

It’s possible for the county to run itself with only two commissioners, but the county’s ongoing budget discussion makes it favorable to choose a new commissioner as soon as possible.

While the schedule was not set as of Monday afternoon, Peterson said the party will need to screen initial candidates as Democrats, then present the names to the precinct captains. There will be some time for candidates to campaign before they vote on the three names, which Peterson expects will be presented to the commissioners at around the end of June.

Many of these meetings will be open to the public, aside from the executive sessions where the candidates make their original pitch. Additionally, the party hopes to put the candidate application on its Web site (www.kitsapdemocrats.com).

While many potential candidates are now conducting risk/benefit studies about getting in the race, Planning Commissioner Tom Nevins, 67, has announced he plans to seek the seat.

A retired teacher with an engineering degree, Nevins said the budget crisis can be partially alleviated by making sure the county gets all of the federal and state funding it deserves.

Nevins, who was appointed by Endresen to the Planning Commission, has lived in Kitsap County since 2001.

Angel said she would favor a candidate with whom she has worked before, in this regard County Treasurer Barbara Stephenson has a considerable advantage. The fact that Stephenson has proven her countywide electibility twice works in her favor. Additionally, she won’t need very long to understand budget issues.

Stephenson, 54, said on Monday that she was considering putting her name forward.

“It’s a tough decision,” she said. “I would bring a skill set to that office that would be helpful. I would be able to take a good hard look at the county’s financial picture.”

If Stephenson is selected, the Democratic Party would also need to select a replacement treasurer.

After some initial reluctance, Poulsbo City Counselor Ed Stern, 52, is now seriously considering pursuing the job. Stern, who has never been a member of either political party, attended a Democratic meeting over the weekend and paid party dues.

Stern said he was keeping his options open, and to not join the Democratic Party would be to close them.

“The rule in politics and business is to never rule out any options before you have to,” Stern said.

Stern feels that the next commissioner should work to change county government.

“The system is stressed and puts too much responsibility on three people’s shoulders,” Stern said. “Whoever takes this job should work to make sure it doesn’t exist in its present form in five years.”

Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council Director Mary McClure, a commissioner candidate in 1992, took herself out of the running this weekend, citing a heavy workload and impact on her health as deciding factors. She also felt that her time is better spent with KRCC, where she could make a more substantial contribution.

“If I ran for commissioner would I wake up most days joyous, as I do in my current world?,” she said. “And what’s the likelihood of looking back in three years and seriously kicking myself?”

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