Freeholders tentatively select seven-member council

"Seven is better than five - and definitely better than three - when deciding the critical business of county government, the Kitsap Board of Freeholders tentatively decided at its April 14 meeting.The freeholders, charged by voters with writing a new county charter, believe a seven-member council might be the best form of government for the county, according to board chairwoman Linda Webb of Port Orchard.The seven-member council would include two members from each of three districts, nominated and elected within their district, and one member-at-large, elected countywide, said Webb.The at-large council member also would serve as chairman of the board, she said. That would differ from the current system in which the three commissioners - from the north, central and south districts - are elected countywide.Commissioner candidates run only in their district during partisan primaries under the current system. Webb noted last year's primary when Dusty Wiley ran against incumbent Charlotte Garrido for the South Kitsap Democratic nomination. Wiley won, but was defeated by Jan Angel in the general election.Webb said there was a lot of discussion about the five- or seven-member council at Saturday's meeting.With five, only two members could meet at a time without (violating) the open meetings act, she said. She noted that when a quorum of the body meets the meeting must be open to the public.With seven we could have three, a really effective little subcommittee ... potentially more effective, Webb said.She said the board also tentatively decided not to adopt term limits for county council members.A term is four years. If the voters didn't want someone in office they could vote them out. Term limits are unnecessary, she said.The board also made a preliminary decision to keep the county administrator job an appointed rather than elected position, Webb said. It was an issue of semantics, she added.We said we would use the word 'county executive' ... if the position was elected. 'Administrator' means it's appointed. We thought it would be easier for everyone to understand. That's really how we did it, Webb said.Webb stressed the word preliminary for decisions the board made Saturday.It's very preliminary. We went into preliminary decision making, taking straw polls after hearing information from the committees about legislative and executive issues. ... We can make changes if we hear from the public they don't like something, she said.Freeholders Jack Hamilton and Matt Ryan are leading the committee researching seven-member councils elsewhere in Washington and across the nation.We can say 'whoa,' they had these problems elsewhere, and take another look at it if the research turns up adverse uses of the seven-member council, Webb said.The next meeting of the full Board of Freeholders is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24. On the agenda for that meeting is the question of whether some currently elected county offices, such as clerk and coroner, should be made appointed.The meeting is set for 6-10 p.m. at the Bremerton School District headquarters, 134 Marion Ave. "

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