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Nystul elected to Poulsbo City Council, Position 3

Gary Nystul - Herald file photo
Gary Nystul
— image credit: Herald file photo

POULSBO – When he takes office in January, Gary Nystul will have the distinction of having served as a city council member in two cities and a city auditor in a third.

Nystul, a former Kalispell, Mont. council member who is Bremerton’s city auditor, was elected Tuesday to Poulsbo City Council Position 3. Nystul, of Poulsbo Place, staved off a write-in challenge from retired college professor Fred Springsteel of Bond Road.

With 1,202 ballots counted Tuesday, Nystul received 1,203 votes. There were 69 write-in votes cast; it wasn't known Tuesday night how many of those were cast for Springsteel.

The ballot count will change Wednesday. Kitsap County Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore gave this rundown Tuesday of ballots received as of Monday evening.

— Countywide: 47,955 of 146,593 ballots mailed.

— North Kitsap School District: 10,465 of 28,789.

— Poulsbo city: 1,838 of 5,165.

— Poulsbo Port District: 1,566 of 4,238.

— Kingston Port District, 1,558 of 4,073.

That’s not counting the 10,000 countywide ballots received in Tuesday’s mail, nor the ballots received from drop boxes. In addition, Gilmore expects to receive on Wednesday ballots postmarked on Election Day.

As the only candidate on the ballot, Nystul didn’t campaign. He attended some City Council meetings but said he mostly watches them from home on BKAT. Springsteel, who is concerned about the city’s growth rate and the impacts of development on traffic safety, tried unsuccessfully to lure Nystul into a public discussion about city issues. No one attended the Oct. 31 forum at the Poulsbo Library.

“It just didn’t fit into my schedule,” Nystul said. “That was his event. He scheduled it without talking to me, and unfortunately it didn’t work out.”

Nystul has an accounting degree from Montana State University at Bozeman, served as Kalispell’s city finance director from 1975-78 and a city councilman from 1982-2000, and concomitantly retired from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve as a commander.

The Montana Department of Revenue filed four tax liens on Nystul for unpaid property taxes between 1993 and 1997, according to the Flathead County Treasurer’s Office. In addition, Nystul was as much as two years late on his property taxes when he sold his Kalispell home on July 10, 2001. The property taxes were paid upon sale.

In 2000, he left Kalispell to become budget manager of Kitsap County. He has been Bremerton’s auditor since 2003. As auditor, Nystul has performed 25 audits or reviews since 2006, according to his department website. His study of the cost of allowing city employees to take home city-owned vehicles led to a change in the policy; the policy is now limited to employees, such as public works and police,  who may have to respond to emergencies from their homes.

Among other audits or reviews, he found that the City of Bremerton’s ownership interest in the Norm Dicks Government Center had not been recorded, warranty items had not been addressed after Memorial Plaza Park was completed, and a policy manual for the management and maintenance of the city’s fleet of vehicles had not been completed by 2010 even though it had been requested by the fleet manager in 1996.

Springsteel doubted that Nystul could serve as Bremerton auditor and Poulsbo councilman. On Election Night at 4 p.m., Nystul seemed harried when asked for his post-election priorities.

“My mind is not in gear to giving you a good answer,” he said. “It’s not a good time to give a good response.”

Springsteel mailed 900 fliers to voters and spoke out at council meetings. He helped form a new watchdog group, Citizens for Poulsbo’s Future. And he made the news, although it wasn’t positive. He used the N-word in a letter to the editor of the Herald, which cost him a leadership position in the Eagles lodge; he later apologized. And on Oct. 23, he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

Asked for what he would have done differently in his campaign, he said Tuesday, “First of all, I would have gotten my name on the ballot. I wouldn’t have gotten into trouble with your newspaper. And I would not have gone out driving to the casino after 2 a.m.”

Springsteel was holding out hope of a good vote count in his column. “I think a lot of people are putting it off because of the initiatives,” he said early Tuesday. “They are unsure how they’re going to vote.”

If he won, he said his priorities would be luring a major hotel chain to Viking Avenue, being involved in the update of shoreline regulations, and monitoring the impacts of the Edward Rose development on 305 and Bond.

About that hotel, he said Little Norway should be able to attract more international visitors. He said he recently visited La Push and was surprised to meet so many visitors from Germany.

“If they can find La Push online, they can find Poulsbo,” he said.

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