In what came as a surprise to many, Kitsap County Commissioners Rob Gelder and Charlotte Garrido Monday appointed Linda Streissguth to fill the vacant third seat on the Kitsap County Commission.
Following more than 90 minutes behind closed doors, Garrido made the announcement to about 20 people who had been waiting for more than an hour to find out who would be chosen.
Commissioner Garrido said the choice to appoint Steissguth was difficult because all three nominees had the qualifications needed to do the job.
"We interviewed each of them at length," she said. "And I even listened to the tapes a second time."
She said the decision was made based on the fact that she and Gelder felt Steissguth would be able to align herself with them.
"It's important to this commission that the person appointed align themselves with us because there is work to be done," Garrido said.
She pointed out that the commissioners have a new comprehensive plan to address, the implementation of the mental health sales tax and budget issues ahead of them.
Steissguth, who is currently the community engagement manager for Puget Sound Energy, was not present to hear the decision, but Garrido planned to call her.
She has been a resident of Kitsap County since 1993 and has a bachelor's degree in business administration and a certificate in management studies from City University in Bellevue.
Steissguth's selection caught some off guard because she was third on the list of nominees from local Democrats. The state requires that the party of the exiting officeholder submit a ranked list of three candidates. The commissioners are not obligated to pick the first choice, but they typically have named the top person or the second on the list.
Each of eight applicants for the job were given two opportunities to speak to local Democrats and then, in mid December, Democratic precinct committee officers took a vote.
The results put Bremerton City Councilwoman Leslie Daugs at the top of the list. Irene Bowling, a local businesswoman and piano teacher, was second on the list.
Bowling was there to hear the announcement but declined to comment.
Streissguth said she was excited to hear the news.
"I certainly know this was a difficult decision for the commissioners," she said. "They took it very seriously. I feel honored to stand with the other candidates. They are incredibly dedicated individuals and I deeply appreciate that."
Steissguth plans to meet with Garrido and Gelder Tuesday morning to go over schedules and set a time when she can be sworn in.
She wants to get up to speed with the priority list of projects for 2014 and anticipates working as much as she can on county business while she finishes her work at PSE.
"Certainly, I consider this job as a commissioner to be my full time commitment and I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can as fast as I can," she said.
Among her priorities are implementation of the county's mental health sales tax and development of the Central Kitsap Community Campus.
She also said she is committed to running for the position. So far, Bremerton Attorney Ed Wolfe, who is a Republican, is the only candidate to announce for the seat. The seat will be up for a vote in the November 2014 General Election.
The seat came open after the resignation of former commissioner Josh Brown. Brown began a new job last week as executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council in Seattle.