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Freeholders give final approval to proposed charter

The Kitsap Board of Freeholders put a final, official seal of approval on their proposed new county charter Saturday, Nov. 3.

But not without some dissent from the 21-member board, which voted 13-5 to approve the document during a meeting at the Silverdale Community Center.

The troublesome issues of countywide or district elections, and partisan or nonpartisan elected officials, divided the freeholders once again. The proposed charter calls for district-only election of county council members and nonpartisan status for almost all county elected officials, both changes from the current system.

The charter now will go to the voters, who will decide whether to enact the new form of government. The freeholders will discuss the timing of that election during a study session with the county commissioners scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the county Public Works building in Port Orchard.

The charter will be formally presented to the commissioners during their Nov. 26 meeting.

At least two of the five freeholders who voted against the charter Saturday said they might still support it when it is put to a public vote.

“I’m going to vote no today,” said freeholder Andrew Maron of Bainbridge Island, “but when we get to February, I honestly don’t know.”

Maron expressed continued opposition to district-only council elections, but added “I recognize that 30 years from now, when our population is maybe 500,000 instead of 250,000, by-district elections will be OK.”

He also said charter plans to expand to a five-member county council and create an elected executive would improve county government.

Freeholder Robert MacDermid of Silverdale had similar thoughts — he voted against the charter Saturday, but remained open to supporting home rule during the yet-to-be scheduled election on the document.

“Anybody who is making decisions for the county, I want them to have the best interests of the county in mind,” MacDermid said, “not the best interest of their district.”

MacDermid and Maron were joined in their opposition to the charter by freeholders Mary Ellen Madison, Sherry Appleton and Leif Bentsen, all North Kitsap residents.

“I could not vote for the charter in its current form because, as compared to our current system, the district-only issue diminishes the ability of every citizen to participate in electing officials to the county’s legislative body,” Bentsen said.

Most of the freeholders disagreed.

District-only elections are “a troublesome issue, and there is no easy answer,” said freeholder Jim Avery of Manchester. “But what we’re doing with a districtwide scheme is not unique. All the other significant-sized counties have adopted a district scheme for electing their councilors.”

“I don’t agree with every little bit (of the charter) either,” said freeholder Barbara Stephenson of Poulsbo. “But I think on balance, it’s a really good document.”

Voting yes were South Kitsap freeholders Avery, Karl Duff, Donna Huff, Jim Martin, Ron Rada, Sharon Shrader and Linda Webb; Central Kitsap freeholders DeWayne Boyd, Jack Hamilton, Marcus Hoffman and L. Jane Slach; and Stephenson and Matt Ryan of North Kitsap. Absent Saturday were Kay Wilson and Gordon Walgren of Central Kitsap and George McKinney of North Kitsap.

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