County electeds want to retain independence

"While many speakers urged the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders March 24 to create a five- or seven-member County Commission, Commissioner Tim Botkin defended the magic number three.Instead, Botkin pushed for separating county government powers through the creation of an elected executive.Even with a three-headed body it gets unwieldy at times - it would be even more so with five or seven, Botkin said.He added that surrounding counties like King, Pierce and Snohomish have opted to create an elected executive position and that perhaps Kitsap should follow their lead.Currently, Kitsap is governed by a three-member Board of County Commissioners, who appoint a county administrator. At a previous freeholder meeting, commissioners Jan Angel and Chris Endresen and Administrator Malcolm Fleming argued for retaining the appointed administrator position, but expanding the board of commissioners.Elected county officials were invited to teach the 21 freeholders about their departments during a study session that resembled an all-day crash course in local government. Speakers also were asked for their views on whether their positions should be elected or appointed and if the positions should be partisan. County officials - including Clerk Dean Logan, Coroner Greg Sandstrom, Sheriff Steve Boyer and Prosecuting Attorney Russell Hauge - preferred their positions remain elected. However, some said they should be non-partisan, including Boyer, Sandstrom and Assessor Jim Avery, who also is a freeholder.When you go to tell a family they've lost a loved one they just want a compassionate person - party ties don't matter, Sandstrom said. But Sandstrom and other officials said elections keep key positions independent from political influence.I'd like to make a case for the independence of the county clerk position, Logan said. It's really important to have an independent record of what happens in the courts.Logan added that elections preserve the balance of power, citing how the court issues the fees and fines and the clerk collects them. He also stressed that his elected status encourages accountability and grants citizens better access to service.If you need access to the courts you know the buck stops in my office - you don't have to go to the county commissioner's office, Logan said. Judges from the superior and district courts told the freeholders they preferred to keep their positions non-partisan because justice should be untainted by the influence of political parties.Officials fielded questions about combining positions or putting them under the umbrella of other agencies - like combining the coroner's office with the sheriff's office or replacing the coroner with a medical examiner - but officials mostly defended the current system as efficient.Hauge stressed that the system is not broken and that the Freeholders shouldn't tinker too much with it.Please don't try to do too much because things are working pretty well here in Kitsap County, Hauge said.Freeholder Kay Wilson said she was surprised by how much she learned during the educational session.You think you know what the county does but it's amazing to hear the scope of things that they actually do, Wilson said. "

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