POULSBO — County Commissioner Rob Gelder, D-District 1, was on his way to a full term Tuesday, leading with 39,448 votes to Republican Chris Tibbs’ 31,883 as of 8:10 p.m.
The Kitsap County Auditor Elections Office estimates there are 40,000 ballots left to count. The vote count will be updated Wednesday by 5 p.m.
For Tibbs, owner of a restaurant provisions company, it's a fourth attempt at elective office. In 2001, he ran for North Kitsap School Board against Bethany McDonald, getting 2,753 votes to her 7,380. In 2006, he ran for Public Utility District 1, getting 22,829 votes to Lloyd Berg’s 42,399. In 2011, he ran against Gelder for the year remaining in Steve Bauer’s term, receiving 34,633 to Gelder’s 37,864. He and Gelder served together in 2008 on the county Citizens Budget Committee.
Earlier in the day, in a break in a meeting on housing, Gelder was hopeful of winning a four-year term.
“I’ve had the opportunity to do some things that I’d like to see through,” he said. “We’re at a critical time now with the Forest and Bay Project. If I lose, it could lose momentum that wouldn’t serve the project well. There are other projects that would slow down or not be a priority for another commissioner.” Among those issues: Addressing environmental impacts at Salsbury Point County Park, the future of Norwegian Point Park in Hansville, and the role of community advisory councils.
More meatier topics he’s working on: Determining the level of county services, particularly if Silverdale incorporates in February; Silverdale generates enough tax revenue to fund 10 percent of the county budget, Gelder said.
At an Oct. 5 candidates forum in Hansville, Tibbs said he wants an independent performance audit to identify what is working and not working in county government. He wants to improve the permit process and prioritize funding based on what’s constitutionally required; this would free up more money for law and justice, he said.
But Gelder said county government is already working to simplify the permit process and change policies to support small business. In July, the Department of Community Development teamed up with a manufacturing non-profit to analyze the single-family residence permit process, identify wasted steps and develop ideas to improve the process. After the exercise, four of nine permits submitted were issued the same day, Gelder said.
Residents can file and track permits online. And District Court is a paperless court now.
If Kitsap County was not business friendly, Bev Mo and Trader Joe’s wouldn’t have located here in the last 16 months, Gelder said at the forum. (REI announced earlier this week it intends to open a 24,500-square-foot store at the intersection of Randall Way and Myhre Place in Silverdale in fall 2013). “Kitsap County is open for business,” Gelder said.
Gelder defended the current audit process, saying the county pays the state auditor for an extensive audit. Regarding budget priorities, Gelder said a federal grant will enable the Sheriff’s Department to add two additional officers in 2013.
Tibbs said Tuesday’s election was a continuation of the 2011 election. “Same message,” he said. “By and large, we’re still talking about the budget.”
Tibbs supports charter government, through which elected positions could be made non-partisan, departments could be consolidated, and a citizens salary commission could be established to periodically regularly review and adjust salaries of elected officials. Charter government could also give voters the right to propose initiatives and referendums. He believes a county administrator should be hired to manage daily operations of government, freeing commissioners to legislate. And he wants county offices open five days a week; the county, which had a $2.5 million surplus this year and a $1.8 million surplus last year, can afford it, he said.
He believes personality conflicts play a part in the county’s dispute with the Kitsap Rifle and Gun Club. He believes a “quick and amicable solution” can be reached. He doesn’t oppose green tourism-based jobs, but believes manufacturing jobs need to be lured here to provide a more solid foundation for the workforce.