We endorse Gelder for commission | Editorial

Rob Gelder is the Kitsap County Democratic Party precinct committee officers’ top choice to succeed Steve Bauer on the County Commission. Clarence Moriwaki placed second and Linda Berry-Maraist placed third in balloting.

While the County Commission is free to select any of the three for Bauer’s position, it historically has gone with the PCOs’ top choice. The County Commission should not be a rubber stamp —it is the last stop in checks and balances that go into appointing someone to a $109,000-a-year job approving laws, setting policies and managing the county’s $325 million budget.

And the other applicants have pledged to not run for the position if they are not appointed. Particularly in a county that leans toward one political party, we need a campaign so the public has an opportunity to raise issues and get potential elected officials to respond.

That said, we endorse Gelder for appointment. (For this editorial, The Herald interviewed Gelder and Moriwaki. Berry-Maraist didn’t respond to several phone-call requests for an interview.)

Gelder’s background will bring an important balance to future budget trimming. He knows how the county budget works, and he also understands human needs in our communities.

Gelder said he’s “mission driven” — specifically, to make a difference in people’s lives. His public service was inspired by his parents, particularly his father, who served on the school board and town council in Phelps, N.Y. (the Sauerkraut Capitol of the World), and also served as a sheriff’s sergeant and police chief.

Gelder earned a political science degree from the University of Rochester and worked as an aide to New York state Assemblyman Mike Nozzolio before moving to Seattle and joining Group Health. In the ensuing years, he served as Group Health Foundation’s director of development; foundation manager for HopeLink, which provides services for homeless and low-income families, children, seniors and people with disabilities; executive director of a human services agency in Rochester, N.Y.; manager of the donor campaign program at the Washington Health Foundation; and director of development for Martha & Mary. He served on the Kitsap County Citizens Budget Advisory Committee.

Gelder is concerned about the intensity of development in Port Gamble that could occur under the North Kitsap Legacy Partnership (a possibly moot point now, since Commissioner Bauer has backed off on support for a “fully contained community” designation for Port Gamble). Gelder believes Pope Resources lands proposed to be acquired by the county should be acquired through grant funding, and that it could be maintained for public use through an integrated forest stewardship plan that would include selective logging.

Gelder believes the county has an important role to play in the cleanup of Port Gamble Bay. The state Department of Ecology is accepting public comment through March 29 on proposed cleanup options. Gelder would like the county to be involved, perhaps as a “convenor” of discussions that bring all parties together.

Regarding the county budget, “revenues aren’t keeping up with expenses,” even after a 7 percent cut in the 2010-11 budget, he said. He will work to make sure future cuts are made “where they are least painful” — in human services and areas that most affect people’s lives. “It’s important to maintain that voice” for human needs, he said. We agree.

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