Appointment offers an easier route to Poulsbo City Council

POULSBO — It took Jeff Bauman one 12-page application and a 30-minute interview to grab a seat on the Poulsbo City Council this week.

The retired Poulsbo Public Works director was one of six applicants from whom the council chose to fill the slot vacated by Becky Erickson’s move from council member to mayor on Dec. 28. It was a large field, considering three council members were up for reelection in 2009, but only one was challenged.

Some council members say there are differences between what voters and the council look for in a candidate. But there’s no doubt appointments offer a simple path to the council compared to months campaigning under public scrutiny.

“You only have to get the council behind you,” said Councilman Jim Henry, who narrowly defeated incumbent Kim Crowder in November. “When you’re running for office, you have to get everyone behind you, or at least one more than the other guy.”

The Poulsbo council uses appointments to fill seats left vacant by resignations, or, in Erickson’s case, position changes. Some have used appointments as springboards to long careers on the council. Councilman Dale Rudolph, for example, was appointed 16 years ago.

Bauman, and several other candidates for this year’s vacant position said they weren’t sure if they would have run for the office.

In Bauman’s case, he was still happily retired in November and running for council was not yet on his radar, he said.

As for the process of the appointment, he said it saved the city the time and expense of having a special election, and he thinks he’s a good fit for the position.

Kate Nunes said applying for the seat was less intimidating than launching a campaign.

“I wasn’t really ready for that yet,” she said.

The council tends to look for appointees who have experience but will also work well with the other members, said Councilman Ed Stern. It’s a quality not always valued by voters.

“I’d say that’s the biggest difference,” Stern said. “The council is always looking for teamwork ... in an election, all bets are off.”

On the other hand, election winners usually join the council with a stronger knowledge of what their constituents want and a feeling of empowerment earned on the campaign trail, Stern said.

“I’ts not always fun running for office,” Stern said, “but it is eye opening.”

Henry knows both sides of the coin.

He was appointed to the council in 2000, after serving nine years on the city’s Planning Commission. In 2007 he lost his council seat to Erickson.

Henry ran a vigorous campaign against incumbent Crowder in 2009.

He spent a few thousand dollars advertising and spread signs across town. He doorbelled. He met with editorial boards and spoke at candidate forums.

After six months of campaigning, he won by 59 votes.

Pounding pavement in his 2009 bid helped him understand his constituents better and grow as a councilman, Henry said. But he’s not sure an elected council member is always better prepared than an appointee.

“It all depends on how much ground game you do before,” Henry said.

—Herald Editor Celeste Cornish contributed to this report.

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