Interested voters had the opportunity to listen to the candidates of two important Central Kitsap positions last week at a League of Women’s Voters candidate forum.
The two candidate forums consisted of the vacant position for the Port of Bremerton District 2 Commissioner seat and the Bremerton City Council District 6 position. The two candidates for the Port of Bremerton District 2 Commissioner are Jack Edwards and Gary Anderson, and the two candidates for the Bremerton City Council District 6 position are Michael Simpson and Anna Mockler.
Bremerton’s current port commissioner for District 2, Larry Stokes, and current councilman for District 6, Richard Huddy, are both not seeking re-election for their positions.
Port of Bremerton District 2 Commissioner
The first forum of the night was devoted to the Port of Bremerton candidates; Jack Edwards and Gary Anderson. The Port of Bremerton’s District 2 actually extends south from Sinclair Inlet through Port Orchard and up to Yukon Harbor.
Anderson grew up in Kitsap County, graduating from South Kitsap High School, Olympic College, and Central Washington University. He has more than 30 years of professional experience operating and managing commercial and residential real estate companies, establishing the G Anderson Group in 2010. His community service includes being part of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Port Orchard, and serving on the Fast Ferry Task Force.
Edwards received his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from California State University Long Beach and is a former economic development manager for the City of Bremerton. His community service includes being the chairman of the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, a founding member of the Harbor Festival, and member of the Bremerton, Port Orchard, and Kitsap County Lodging Tax Advisory Committees, among others.
“The Port of Bremerton can become even more effective in its mission to support economic growth and community amenities while protecting the taxpayers and families of the Port District,” reads an official statement from Anderson in Kitsap County’s 2019 General Election Voters’ Pamphlet. “I will bring a fresh perspective as a business owner, employer and leader in our community that can add immense value to the mission of the Port.”
“Since relocating to [Washington] state, I’ve dedicated myself to better our community,” Edwards’ statement reads. “I’m running to better serve our Port District with a fiscally conservative mindset and to find alternative ways to increase its operating revenues, without increasing taxes. This will provide economic opportunities and create jobs.”
One of the first questions asked at the forum was regarding how each candidate defines the position of a port commissioner.
“I think a port commissioner wears quite a few hats,” Edwards said. “There’s many different facets to what the port owns and operates. They need to look at the budget, and funding, and the expenses that are needed to run and operate the port. They need to be a really good steward of the taxpayer’s money.”
“The port commissioner’s job is to oversee the operations of the Port of Bremerton and certainly set out policy,” Anderson said. “If you read the strategic plan, the port commissioner’s number one job in the plan is to interface with the Navy and look for opportunities that may exist.”
Anderson said he has not personally attended any of the port meetings this year, but noted that he watches them on BKAT to stay well informed on the happenings of the port. On the other hand, Edwards said he has attended every single port meeting since filing for office.
A big topic of discussion regarded the taxpayer-funded trips to overseas air shows for economic development at the port. Both candidates agreed that costs need to be cut down, but also wanted to be represented in this process.
“When we first started this process of campaigning and talking about these taxpayer-funded trips, I started off being vehemently against it, knowing there’s been a number of years when these trips have gone on and there’s been no tangible or foreseeable results,” Edwards said. “After attending a couple of the (Kitsap) Aerospace and Defense Alliance meetings, I’ve kind of changed my lines a bit.”
“I think we need to be mindful of the amount of money we’re spending and how large the delegation needs to be to go,” Anderson said. “But we do need to have a seat at the table and be represented there as long as we can so that if that opportunity does arise, we’re there to take advantage of it.”
Both candidates agreed that investing and restoring the breakwater at the Port Orchard Marina presents one of the biggest issues facing the port at this time.
“It’s time to be replaced,” Edwards said. “There has been funding from the state and the port set aside and they are going to start construction on that in 2020, which is a good thing.”
“Restoring that asset to make sure we retain that asset is going to be very important,” Anderson said “That’s a big expense item but a very necessary item.”
The candidates gave final statements before their forum came to a close.
“Now is the time, it’s going to be a changing of the guard,” Edwards said. “Educate yourself and make a good, informed decision. “My background as an economic development professional for the City of Bremerton has given me the knowledge and the experience to really fit into this position because the port is all about economic development.”
“The Port of Bremerton sits in a strong position to provide a better quality of life and opportunity for future generations,” Anderson said. “It has already accomplished much to that end, but other opportunities exist. It is my hope to be instrumental in this kind of relevant change in any way I can.”
Bremerton City Council – District 6 position
The second forum of the night was devoted to the position of Bremerton City Council’s District 6 seat, with candidates Michael Simpson and Anna Mockler.
Mockler holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Anthropology from Antioch College and a Master of Arts in Environmental Conservation Education from New York University. Her professional experience includes being a wetland scientist, working at the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, and an adjunct professor at City University of New York teaching ESL, Writing, and Critical Thinking.
Simpson is a combat veteran with 22 years of service in the U.S. Army and Washington National Guard. He also served as a Correctional Officer and Deputy Sheriff with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office for 13 years. Simpson is also a longtime member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 2338 and American Legion.
“I want what you want — better quality of life in Bremerton,” Mockler’s statement reads in the voters’ pamphlet. “We want to live peacefully in our homes. We need living-wage jobs and affordable housing. We deserve education and healthcare.”
“I hope to be a real voice for the men and women of Bremerton and bring balance back to the City Council,” Simpson’s statement reads. “After attending several council meetings, it was abundantly clear the city deserves a new direction.”
One of the first questions asked at the forum was about the candidate’s biggest concern for District 6 voters. Mockler stated that affordable housing was the largest issue and that she supports the pilot program of the Bremerton Housing Authority. Simpson stated that the government needs to return to its core functions, such as public safety, infrastructure and public utilities.
Mockler also stated that she has been to every single city council meeting since fall 2018, while Simpson said he hasn’t attended many but instead watches on BKAT to stay up-to-date on city policy.
Another question was asked about the increasing amount of taxpayer funds being devoted to the mayor’s pet projects.
“The first pet project we need to stop is raising the mayor’s salary,” Simpson said. “That absolutely has to be done away with. This stuff is not accountable and it absolutely should not be a part of the functions of our government.”
“The way this works is the mayor has ideas and he has budgets, and he proposes them to city council,” Mockler said. “The city council reviews them and discusses them, and then votes on them. The mayor can do very little indeed without the consent of all seven members of the city council, elected by the citizens of Bremerton.”
Regarding whether the Bremerton Police Department was adequately trained and staffed, Mockler said she believed they were and praised them for not seeking to simply rack up arrests or tickets. Simpson, who is a former deputy and corrections officer, said police can always get more training and that folks from District 6 have asked for more patrols.
In the candidate’s closing statements, both vied for voter support come Nov. 5.
“I’ve seen how our fractured politics have impeded our life,” Simpson said. “We don’t have the trust in government that we used to have. The city has a poor history of saying one thing and doing another.”
“In many ways, Mr. Simpson and I are similar,” Mockler said. “We’re both knocking on many doors, we both want to represent Bremerton. I think you should vote for me on Nov. 5 because I know how to do this job. I know how to advocate for District 6.”