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Next treasurer to be elected in primary

At this point, at least one thing is certain: The office of Kitsap County Treasurer will stay in Democratic hands no matter who is elected to replace retiring Treasurer Sharon Shrader, since there isn’t a Republican on the ballot.

After that, the question gets murkier, because both candidates — former City of Poulsbo Accounting Manager Paulette Alvarado and Barbara Stephenson, the executive director of the United Way of Kistap County — carry with them vast accounting and finance experience, in addition to a long list of ringing endorsements from other elected officials and private citizens.

In the end, both agree, the decision will come down to what type of experience voters value most.

While Alvarado’s focus has been in the government sector, Stephenson’s experience centers more on the private and quasi-public sectors.

“The voters truly have a choice to make,” Stephenson said. “They have an opportunity to look at the differences between the two candidates and make a decision. We are very different.”

Alvarado agrees.

She points to her 25-year history with the City of Poulsbo, calling herself a hands-on player, a manager who can take on any role in the office when called upon to do so and with a deep understanding of how government banking works.

She is a Certified Municipal Finance Administrator.

“The citizens deserve a qualified, experienced government finance officer,” Alvarado said. “I am qualified for the position.”

Stephenson, meanwhile, points to her 11 years with the United Way and her 14 years with the banking industry.

“The reality, coming from the private sector, is that you have to manage to the bottom line,” she said. “That’s truly how it is.”

Whoever is elected will have a challenge ahead of her. The Kitsap County commissioners earlier this summer asked all department heads to shave their budgets by 10 percent next year and by an additional 5 percent in 2004 — a move that could mean layoffs.

The treasurer’s office currently has a staff of 14, including the treasurer.

As the executive director of the United Way of Kitsap, Stephenson said she hasn’t increased the staff level once in her 11 years.

“You look at the budget each year and figure out the most economical way to get the job done,” Stephenson said.

Alvarado points again to her government experience.

“I was a manager for the accounting department at the City of Poulsbo,” Alvarado said. “I was a working manager; I was able to step in and do any of the jobs I supervised. The county treasurer’s office needs someone who can step in at any time. You don’t know what you’re going to be faced with, with diminishing resources, but citizens deserve good services.”

Meanwhile, voters don’t have long to make a decision.

The primary election is set for Tuesday, Sept. 17.

But the Kitsap County Auditor’s Office mailed out 84,887 absentee ballots from Aug. 28 through Aug. 30.

Elections staff members say that 67.8 percent of the 124,745 registered voters in Kitsap County have qualified for absentee ballots.

With the voting deadline fast approaching, Alvarado and Stephenson say they’ve pushed ahead with their campaigns.

They’ve posted campaign signs along roadways, attended service organization luncheons and door-belled all up and down the county.

“People seem to be please that you’re taking the time to give them the information,” Stephenson said. “And I am happy to have informed and educated the voters.”

Alvarado said doorbelling has been a rewarding experience.

“I’ve received a good reception while I’ve been doorbelling,” Alvarado said. “The citizens seem to be really glad to be face-to-face with a candidate and put a face to a name.”

Alvarado has never before sought a public office, but opted to pursue the elected position of county treasurer, retiring from her post at Poulsbo City Hall in July. She opted to run after state Treasurer Michael Murphy encouraged her to do so.

Alvarado has Murphy’s endorsement, as well as the endorsements of retiring County Treasurer Sharon Shrader, Port Orchard Treasurer Kristene Tompkins, Poulsbo Finance Director Donna Bjorkman and Kitsap County budget manager Rich Hanna, to name a few.

Stephenson, on the other hand, has sought and secured a public office once before.

She secured a position on the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders more than a year ago — the board that crafted the proposed charter for Kitsap County.

The charter failed to pass in February.

It was from this overall experience, said Stephenson, that she learned the nuts and bolts of government practice and, during that time, learned that Shrader intended to retire.

“It was a natural progression,” Stephenson said. “I have been taking care of other people’s money for 25 years.”

She soon learned that she had backing, as well.

Stephenson is also being endorsed by Poulsbo Mayor Donna Jean Bruce, former Poulsbo Mayor Mitch Mitchusson, Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge and Billie Eder, a former county commissioner and county treasurer.

“I truly believe experience counts and I have a demonstrated record of leadership and commitment to Kitsap County,” Stephenson said.

“I really do have all the qualifications,” Alvarado said. “And that’s important. I am trained in the rules and regulations in state and national accounting levels as a government finance officer.”

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