Candidate forum shows community interest

The League of Women Voters of Kitsap County held a forum Thursday evening for the 26th Legislative District state Senate debate and conversations with Bremerton School board candidates.

Audience members were handed index cards to write questions down for the candidates. Ann Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Kitsap County, acted as the moderator for the evening, reading off questions to the participating parties. Each candidate had two minutes for opening and closing remarks, and one-and-a-half minutes to respond to the questions. Prior to wrapping up with closing statements, the candidates also had an opportunity to respond to their opponents statements or to further comment on an issue they felt needed more explanation.

The event, held in the city council chambers at the Norm Dicks Government Center, filled quickly for the first event,  the 26th Legislative District state Senate debate. For the second half of the forum--the Bremerton School board candidates--most of the audience cleared out, leaving a handful of people in the room.

Jan Angel and Dr. Nathan Schlicher took to the microphones first, starting off with opening statements. Schlicher went first, describing his progress as freshman senator and his desire to get back to the Capitol for more.

“I believe firmly that we need at least one doctor in Olympia,” the Bremerton native said. “I’ve since come to believe that it’s probably a psychiatrist that we need, but that’s a whole other conversation.”

His comment elicited laughter from the audience.

Angel approached her first statement with a little more history of where she came from and her variety of previous jobs. The representative also told the audience that getting people back to work is a priority if she’s elected.

“We gotta get people working again,” she said. “We gotta get this economy back on track. If we get government off the back of our local business people. I firmly believe we can do that with a snowball effect.”

Questions ranged from the federal shutdown impacts on the local economy to health care, which Schlicher surprisingly pointed out no one had asked about in any previous debates. Both agreed the shutdown is a disaster, and that it immediately impacts the Bremerton and surrounding areas due to the city’s military bases.

“I tell ya, I am personally appalled,” she said of the shutdown. Angel stated that the government should be ashamed of their doings when death benefits cannot even be paid to those who served in the military and have recently deceased.

”I don’t agree with what is happening there,” she said. “When you have issues this important I feel like the American people and the people in our district are being held hostage.”

Schlicher noted his brother-in-law is a Stennis sailor, but that many other areas outside of the military are impacted.

“I agree, this shutdown is a mess. It is the disfunction we see in politics far too often now,” he said. “But there are other areas that are being impacted.”

Schlicher went on to mention the problem with cutbacks like SNAP and WIC for low-income families in need of nutritious meals and other services. He also stated that funding for WIC is due to run out shortly, another reason politicians need to get working.

For closing statements, both touted their experiences, Angel on her 30 years of working and living in the region, and Schlicher on his experience as a doctor who moves bills through in arenas like health care.

A ten-minute intermission allowed audience members to stretch and chat with the candidates before the start of the Bremerton School Board candidate session. Prior to the start of the school board discussion, Smith announced that Wendy Stevens, district 4 candidate, cited health reasons for her inability to attend. Her opponent, Alyson Rotter, was available for the event along with district 5 Carolynn Perkins, current board president who is running unopposed.

Both were given a chance to present opening statements as well.

Rotter focused on her love for the community and desire to see the education system in Bremerton grow due to her “vested interest” in seeing her childrens’ school district blossom.

“I’ve grown to really love Bremerton,” said the Port Angeles native. Perkins, running unopposed, touted her 30 years of educational experience as her reason to continue in the president’s position.

As someone who has been a teacher, director, principal and a co-founder of a school, Perkins moved to the area and said when she retired she “couldn’t sit still.” The current president stated that the education arena in Bremerton is well-known, and that the district has accolades to be proud of, including that the state science fair is held in the district. She also noted that Harvard collaborated with Bremerton educators for a past project, and that graduation rates have skyrocketed.

Rotter agreed with Perkins’ statements, and reiterated that the positives she is seeing in the local education system make her proud to be a parent and candidate in the district. The new candidate remarked that although high school graduation rates are improving, she wants to see college-going rates skyrocket as well. She called the issue “very near and dear to my heart” as an experienced scholarship counselor for the College Bound program who worked with low-income middle school students to work toward college goals.

Both candidates fielded questions regarding topics such as plans on helping middle school students seamlessly transition to high school, bettering transparency techniques and teacher morale. As an experienced board member, Perkins, who frequently visits schools, said she believes morale has gone “sky high” in recent months, mainly due to the insertion of a new superintendent. The board president also remarked that her inbox was filled with concerns and questions from the community regarding the replacement, something she always appreciates.

“They’re excited,” she said of staff under the new superintendent’s direction. “They are working hard.”

Rotter noted that her classroom visits and time in the district has shown the teachers have passion and heart when it comes to teaching. The position 4 candidate also noted that she felt the superintendent replacement was a good one.

“It seemed evident to me they felt this was a turning point,” she said of staff excitement.

For closing remarks, both candidates asked for the support of those in the room.Perkins restated her appreciation of staff--everyone from the janitors to the teachers--and said she learned a lot over the last four years about the district’s needs. Rotter remarked again about her love for the community and her personal interest to see that the district succeeds.

The president of the Women Voters League cut the questions short due to the center’s closing time of 8:30 p.m. and thanked participants and audience members for attending. After the event, Smith stated she felt it was a good opportunity for the community to see who is in the races.

“I’m very pleased,” she said of the overall event. “People are paying attention. I think that’s good for the community. It’s a fun thing to be doing for the community.”




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