Elliott elected to Kingston Port Commission, District 3

Walt Elliott - Herald file photo
Walt Elliott
— image credit: Herald file photo

KINGSTON — Walt Elliott was elected Tuesday to the Kingston Port Commission, succeeding Tom Coultas, who was ousted in the Aug. 16 primary.

With 1,441 ballots counted Tuesday, Elliott received 883 votes to Jerry Kirschner’s 548.

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.

Port of Kingston commissioners serve six-year terms. They are empowered by state law to set objectives, policies and overall direction for the port district. They wield considerable authority: They can exercise the right of eminent domain, levy and collect assessments on property within the district without voter approval to provide services to the public, and issue bonds and impose excess levies for specific purposes.

Elliott said during his campaign he tried to make it clear what experience he could bring to the port commission if elected. While avoiding being vague, he tried to address where he stands on every aspect of port operations.

Though it's good for commissioners to have their own ideas, Elliott said commissioners should not go into the position with their own agendas. He said the job of the port is to take public input and then turn those ideas into reality.

"I've got lots of ideas. I've been around for a while, and that's good, but commissioners need to be able to put their biases aside and do what the public has asked them to do," he said.

Elliott looks forward to working with commissioners Marc Bissonnette and Pete DeBoer. He recognizes the work they have done and will work to learn how the port has developed into what it is today.

He wants to continue stewardship of Apple Tree Cove and continue working on the aesthetics of Kingston — it's come a long way in 10 years, he said.

Elliott is a retired commanding officer of two naval vessels, ran a $600 million-per-year research company and started two small businesses. He is chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee and is involved in numerous other community efforts.

Elliott said that, in general, district residents are satisfied with the port and how it has created a more welcoming waterfront with open space and events.

As far as the marina goes, fewer than 50 percent of people using it are Kingston residents. He has proposed charging higher moorage fees for non-district residents to ease the waiting list, and adding mooring buoys.

In terms of SoundRunner, Elliott said "people (are) all over the spectrum" on whether the passenger ferry service should be continued. The cost of running the service needs to be lowered, he said.

"It's not opportunistic to have to put all the spare money into SoundRunner when it could be used for ‘fill in the blank,’ " he said.

Elliott is amazed with the care people have for the Kingston community. During his campaign, he has come to appreciate the variety of interests and talents in the community who continue to try and make Kingston a better place, he said.

Kirschner worked at a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company for 26 years; he was in management for 20 of those years. He is chairman of the Passenger-Only Ferry Advisory Committee, which provides input to the port commission on SoundRunner.

While Kirschner had looked forward to serving on the commission, he has plenty to keep him busy – serving on the SoundRunner advisory committee and building a house.

Kirschner said he never thought of running for elected office until a few months before filing his candidacy. Campaigning is time-consuming — he's about four months behind schedule on his house, he said. However, after becoming involved with SoundRunner, people began asking if he would run for port commission.

He thought about it, and finally decided, yes, he could bring something new to the table.

Kirschner said the port needs to go beyond the waterfront and look more at economic development, he said.

During his campaign, in which he knocked on many doors — he's unsure exactly how many — he received a variety of responses for his ideas and how the port is doing.

"Some people are vehemently opposed to my ideas and some are vehemently supportive," he said. He added, "If the community thinks those ideas are good, so be it," he said. "If they say, ‘no, gee Jerry, thanks, but no thanks,’ so be it."

Included in his list of ideas are making Kingston more accessible for small "mom and pop" type shops to open up, instead of more of the same businesses opening. He would like to see unused parking spaces utilized for ferry parking, so those waiting in the ferry line do not have to sit on State Route 104. In general, he wants to see the port expand its emphasis outside the marina and waterfront to support business.

As for SoundRunner, the majority of the people he spoke to while campaigning supported the idea. He admits there were several people totally opposed to the passenger ferry, but the "vast majority are pulling for it."

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