KINGSTON — Laura Gronnvoll, a longtime Kingston resident and self-described habitual volunteer, is running unopposed on Nov. 7 for a seat on the Port of Kingston Board of Commissioners.
Barring a challenge from a write-in candidate, Gronnvoll will succeed Walt Elliott as commissioner from District 3. Elliott, who also serves on the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee, chose not to run for re-election.
Port commissioners are elected to six-year terms. According to the port’s 2017 budget, commissioners each receive a salary of $200 a month, medical benefits, and per diem and travel costs when on port business. The port commission adopts the budget and sets policies. The port’s 2017 budget is $1.5 million. The port owns the Port of Kingston Marina, Mike Wallace Park, North Beach, the Kingston Cove Yacht Club building, the state ferry dock, public fishing pier, small water craft and launch facility, parking lot and undeveloped parkland.
Saltwater runs through the Gronnvoll family’s veins, the candidate said.
“My family’s main source of income is marine services industry. My husband works at a propeller shop, my son owns a propeller shop here in Kingston that he opened two years ago. So we’ve been around this kind of an industry all our lives.”
Despite her close ties to the waterfront, Gronnvoll said she had never considered running for commissioner until she received some encouragement from community members who thought she would make a good fit.
“It wasn’t on my radar to do this,” she said. “I had other people come to me and say, ‘Laura, you should do this.’ My very first reaction was, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
After about six months of deliberating why she should run, Gronnvoll asked herself a different question.
“I finally kind of talked to my husband about it, talked to a few other people about it and thought, ‘Why not?’ So I decided to do it.” Gronnvoll said.
When asked who encouraged her to run, she wouldn’t name anyone in particular, although she did admit that she knows some of the people who are actively engaged in a lawsuit against the port district.
“I know people that are involved with the lawsuits, some of them are my friends,” Gronnvoll said. “When they heard the buzz, they said, ‘Yeah, why don’t you [run for commission]?’”
In February, the Port of Kingston was ordered by the Kitsap County Superior Court to pay more than $166,000 in penalties and legal fees to Beth Brewster, after the port admit it failed to respond to her public records requests. The port also admitted it failed to respond to Tania Issa’s public records requests; penalties could be decided by the court in November. In addition, the port is being sued for wrongful termination by a former port employee.
Gronnvoll said she believes the lawsuits have resulted in a more open and transparent port district.
“I think that one of the things that has come out of all of this is that the port has become more transparent,” Gronnvoll said. “I believe that they have really turned a road in that way. They’re trying to be much more open with the community. They’re trying to reach out. They are more transparent, plain and simple.”
As for how she plans to continue moving the port toward greater transparency, Gronnvoll said her gift of gab will be a valuable asset.
“I’m a talker. If you talk to anyone around Kingston, I don’t have any problem talking to people — that’s never been a shortfall of mine, never,” she said. “In speaking with the two commissioners that I’ll be [serving] with, both of them are very encouraged by the direction the port has taken.”
Gronnvoll said she navigates a different social sphere than the other commissioners because of her extensive involvement in Kingston, where she had lived for more than 40 years. She’s mentored at Kingston Middle School and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, North Kitsap Little League and Poulsbo Co-Op Preschool. She also volunteers for the Passport Club at Richard Gordon Elementary School and serves on the Kingston Farmers Market board of directors.
Second female majority on commission
Gronnvoll is due to become the fourth woman elected to the commission (another was appointed in 1979) and she and Mary McClure will comprise the first female majority on the commission in 27 years, according to records from the Kitsap County Auditor Elections Office and the Port of Kingston.
Gronnvoll doesn’t think the shift in gender balance will influence how the port commission does business.
“Mary and I are two very different people,” she said. “We will agree sometimes and I know we will disagree sometimes, because we have in the past.”
According to Gronnvoll, each commissioner brings something different to the table.
“It’s three people that are all community members,” she said. “I come from a small town. I have this base of people that I know — have known for many, many years — that reaches a base that neither of them are a part of.”
She added, “I’m smart, I can do anything, that’s the way I look at it. Why not try this?”
— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at email@example.com.
Female members of the Port of Kingston Commission
The Kingston Port District was created by voters in 1919. County and port records are sketchy, but approximately 32 people have served as port commissioner. Only four have been women.
1979 (appointed): Kathy Burdick
1987-1993: Ardis Morrow
1991-1992: Sally Hunt
2016-2021: Mary McClure