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Where have all the candidates gone?
If you think the Bremerton City Council members are under-worked and over- paid, think again.
Council president Carol Arends says she regularly puts in 40 hour work weeks attending different meetings, studying packets and shaking hands in the name of the city.
A cool weekly check of $188.
That means she makes a little more than $4 an hour for her work.
Although Arends, like other council members, says the pay doesnt matter in her job, it may be one of the reasons that now that five council seats are opening, the applicant pool is much smaller than in previous years.
If they didnt pay me, I would still run for council, said District 6 representative Eric Younger. I would (work for free) it if someone else would also, he said.
However, Younger hadnt filed as of press time Thursday because he was worried a second term might put too much of a strain on his professional and personal life.
Even though money may not matter, being on call 24-7 does.
Younger estimates he puts in 15 or more hours a week on council work in addition to his full time job.
In addition there are phone calls you will receive from your constituents. In many cases it is from citizens complaining, he said.
Younger attests to the fact he takes citizens concerns seriously, but sometimes his home phone rings before the sun rises or late into the evening.
In April 2001 and February 2002, when the Bremerton City Council seats for District 1 and District 6 became available, 13 candidates fought for the right to serve.
Now that those seats are available again, only five candidates filed before press time on Thursday afternoon.
Arends said she was wondering why there was not a large pool of people.
Two years ago there was a landslide of people who wanted to run. It just seemed like there was a great deal of interest. I dont know how to account for it.
She says the amount of commitments a council member keeps may intimidate some potential candidates.
There is so much reading. It isnt just council meeting and committee nights, and usually you serve on other committees as well.
Mayor Cary Bozeman is dissapointed with the lack of candidates as well. He works closely with the council to create city policy and pass plans on projects.
The more people you have running the more debate you have and the more qualified candidates you are going to get, he said.
Bozeman wants to see a council that more acurately represents the racial, age and gender demographics of Bremerton.
I wish we had more young professional people. Half our council is retired, he said. It would be nice to see a diversified group of people on our council. We are a largely older white male group.
Back in the council office, tucked in to a second floor corner of Bremerton City Hall, city council secretary Lori Smith keeps a fat manilla folder of all the invitations to meetings and festivals that council members receive.
She keeps it in strict order by date, and she has compiled an additional list of all the committees and boards the individual members participate on weekly or monthly.
Each council member participates on at least four groups in the city besides their weekly meetings.
As an example, Arends is on the Police Pension Board, Emergency Management Committee, Kitsap Transit Board and Kitsap Board of Health.
One of the reasons we are not getting quite a lot of candidates is there was well-publicized differences among the previous mayor (Lynn Horton) and the council members, but this election cycle it is not as well-publicized, Younger said.
There is tension still but it is not as tense as it was back then.
Arends says it could have been that people wanted to step in and clean things up. But these days, all she hears is raves about the council and mayors work.
The people I talk to are happy about the signs of the progress in Bremerton, she said.
Arends says one thing that could deter someone from running is the day-to-day public persona you have to keep, as well as the weird incidents you encounter.
When she was campaigning for the District 7 seat, she went from house to house ringing doorbells and shaking hands.
One time she walked up to a door and accidently awoke a Rotweiler on the porch.
He arose between the steps in me. My escape route was blocked, she joked.
Although Arends current term ends in 2005, current candidates for the five available council positions are as follows:
District 1 Jan Hillman; Wayne A. Olsen
District 2 Cecil M. McConnell
District 4 Wendy Priest; Ed Rollman
District 6 Robert McConkey; Dianne P. Robinson; Saul Wallach
Council District 8 Will Maupin