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Botkin/Lent campaign nears finish line

As both candidates for Kitsap County Commissioner District 3 have appeared in one campaign forum after another, differences in style and experience have sharpened.

At an Oct. 23 forum, hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Port Orchard, first-term Democratic incumbent Tim Botkin and Republican challenger Patty Lent tackled issues from property rights and Smart Growth, to communication philosophies as politicians.

“We have to start planning where things go now, to create efficiencies and keep tax burdens down,” Botkin said. “We need a good mix of quality rural areas and dynamic urban areas. We have about 240,000 acres in the whole county and about 240,000 people living here. Our population has grown dramatically over the last 40 years and we know it’s going to continue to grow.”

That’s what Smart Growth is about, Botkin said. It’s about forming coalitions among communities, building communities and establishing sensical growth strategies.

“I am not totally against Smart Growth,” said Lent, who emphasizes her business experience in her bid for commissioner. “But I want to know why we would add new regulations if we can’t enforce the ones we have.”

“The cities and the urban growth areas of the county want Smart Growth, but the rural areas don’t,” Lent said. “About 66 to 73 percent of the county’s population live in unincorporated areas.”

Botkin said he wants to protect urban and rural lifestyles.

“The question is how do we keep (the rural areas) being overrun with growth,” Botkin said.

Questions from the audience focused on candidate’s commitments to constituent concerns.

Botkin said he tries to be receptive to inquiries, although he receives roughly 100 e-mails daily.

“About 20 percent of my time is spent on individual constituent inquiries,” he said. “And, to tell you the truth, I have to prioritize them to see if they affect a broader scope. I usually have to forward many of those questions to our staff anyway for technical assistance.”

Lent said she would be as receptive as possible if elected, and already strives to be so during her campaign.

“The county commissioner is a representative of the citizens and we really need to listen to your concerns,” she said. “I am already answering my e-mails as a candidate.”

She added that the current three-commissioner system for Kitsap County is too small and outdated. The county’s population is growing, she said, and the overall county budget for all funds is $357 million.

“Under a five-commissioner system, we could be out working with the communities; those individuals are the grassroots segments of our county,” she said.

Attendees wanted to know if anything positive is going on these days at the county level, despite a sagging economy and gloomy outlook on the county budget.

“I am extremely enthusiastic with the opportunities in Kitsap County,” Botkin said. “Eight years ago, Kitsap County and, more specifically, Bremerton, was named the best place to live in the U.S. And now there are three exciting projects going on in downtown Bremerton — the first new buildings to be constructed in 30 years.”

Botkin said those projects will make Bremerton even more attractive.

Lent agreed.

“We have the county comprehensive plan,” she said. “It took the county three tries for it to be finished, but it is there and there are some glowing parts to that plan.”

She said when the plan is up for review next year, the residents and constituents who are most affected by it should be able to sit at the table to discuss it.

Botkin’s and Lent’s backgrounds also draw contrasts.

Botkin founded the private law practice of Botkin and Memovich in Silverdale, and was the county’s hearing examiner for six years, a job that entailed making decisions about complex land-use issues.

“The job of county commissioner is about 60 to 70 percent land issues,” he said.

Botkin also the past-president and co-founder of the Kitsap County Dispute Resolution Center.

As commissioner, Botkin has served as the chair of the board of county commissioners twice and he is also the vice chairman of the Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation Policy Board.

Lent has 36 years of business experience, and has brought conventions into and out of Washington. She was the director of sales for Holiday Inns, bringing in Japanese businessmen to the Puget Sound and worked with Weyerhauser and Boeing.

She owned a travel agency with 15 employees and an annual revenue income of $3.5 million, before selling it to a former Seattle Seahawk.

“We need more business in Kitsap County,” she said. “We have a lack of good paying jobs in the county, from the north to the south. We need to offset those higher taxes. We can’t pay for government all by ourselves.”

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