PORT ORCHARD — Relatively quiet general election campaigns for four Port Orchard City Council races are starting to wrap up as voters anticipate getting their ballots in the mail next week.
Following the retirement of councilmember Bek Ashby, the council position 2 seat is up for grabs this November election. The race features current at-large councilmember Jay Rosapepe, who is seeking the four-year term position, and challenger Randy Jones.
Rosapepe retired as South Kitsap School District’s director of transportation a few years back to run for the council seat. Jones has owned and operated Venture Charters since 1997.
Two incumbent councilmembers are seeking a return to the City Council. Scott Diener, who was appointed to the position 3 seat in 2016 and two years later ran unopposed for a full term, is a manager of Development Services and Engineering for Kitsap County. And longtime position 6 councilmember Fred Chang, a communicator for the Washington State Department of Transportation, has been on the council since 2006.
Diener’s seat is being contested by Heidi Fenton, a child care provider. Chang is being challenged by Kaylan O’Connor, who has a background in organizational leadership.
Mark Trenary, a local business owner, is facing Shaun Williams, a marine electrician, for the two-year at-large council position being vacated by Rosapepe.
The Independent asked the candidates to answer three questions relevant to their City Council races. The questions are:
1. What do you see as the City of Port Orchard’s top needs and/or issues heading into 2022?
2. What qualities would/do you bring to the City Council?
3. How can the City Council best encourage commercial development in the city while preserving Port Orchard’s quality of life?
Here are the candidates’ answers, some of which were edited for clarity and brevity:
Council Position 2:
1. From what I’ve heard, we have many problems with water and infrastructure, and sustaining what we already have now. We have permits being granted to some favorite developers for more. The biggest problem is that statement “what I hear.” We have a huge transparency problem, closed door meetings and “us against them” mentality. Mistakes have been made but they have to be owned up to and shown before they can be solved. They have to be seen by the citizens paying the bill.
People will be moving into the area I’m sure but they will also choose from the Key Peninsula, Belfair and outside the small city limits of Port Orchard. Anyone that puts a number on how many people will be moving here is collecting a check from the citizens to say it. The current administration loves to pay consultants and lobbyists. Truth is, there are so many factors involved and all people coming in to the Olympic Peninsula do not have to be, or want to be, in Port Orchard’s city limits.
2. I’m 62 years old, I worked after school washing dishes in my family’s restaurant — Ted’s Lunch — and I’ve been working ever since. I sold real estate at 18, then owned our 24-hour, seven-day-a-week restaurant at 24 when my dad passed. I worked for tobacco companies for about 10 years managing three states. Most importantly, I’ve been a landlord (and now a vacation rental owner) and resident of Port Orchard since 1979.
For the last 20 years, I’ve been a successful fishing and cruise charter boat operator in Port Orchard, where none existed before. With my 30-person vessel “Joker,” I’ve taken up to 1,500 people per year for an average of six hours per trip for 20 years. That kind of face time taught me a lot. Half locals, half tourists. I haven’t had taxpayers cover my mistakes in business. I have been told by more then one person about a citizen being berated by a councilman who is up for election. If I had done that to my 20,000 customers over the years, Venture Charters would have been villified on Yelp.
3. No one councilman knows enough about development or water issues to solve issues created by poor management or issues. As a team, we can once we are allowed to know. Shaun (Williams) with his attention to detail, Heidi (Fenton) will be full time as opposed to having a conflicted interest, Kaylan (O’Connor) is smart and progressive. I have had to learn the hard way that what looks possible on paper does not always work and has consequences that small businesses — unlike city government — have to live with.
We can’t just say to the next council what are you going to do about it now? I have seen an evolution of sorts working with ports around the Sound from an “us against them” mentality. The Port of Bremerton and Port of Port Angeles treat their guests and tenants like the people paying their wages, something this city has forgotten. The citizens of this city pay most of their money on their homes and sales tax only to be told what they want. Closed-door meetings with people with strings attached is no longer acceptable. I hope I have a chance to be your servant.
1. The City of Port Orchard is becoming a destination of choice. In 2022, the continual building of new wells, a water reservoir and sewer infrastructure as our city grows will be vital to our success. We need to explore additional transportation alternatives to make the city accessible for all. However, it is also important that we are fiscally responsible, staying within our budget, and ensuring that everything we do is sustainable and a benefit to all residents of the city.
We have a homeless and substance abuse problem that we are working with county and state resources to address. We can’t simply ignore it and hope it goes away. The goal is to increase overall health and well-being of individuals in need of additional resources.
City government is currently transparent and accountable, but I will continue to work on how information can be made available in a simplified fashion.
2. Besides serving as a Port Orchard city councilmember from 2018 to the present, I have held a multitude of public positions, from the United States Navy, to Boeing, to the South Kitsap School District, as well as my volunteer community work that is well documented in the Kitsap County voter’s pamphlet. I’m proud of my service to my country and community.
As a City Council member, I have served as mayor pro-tem (2020) as well as on numerous city committees. From 2019-2020 I served as a member of the Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners (2019-2020).
I am a good listener and an independent thinker who analyzes issues and makes common-sense decisions. I bring valuable experience and management leadership to the council. My understanding of complicated issues, sincere interest in making good decisions, and willingness to be active and serve in our community make me an ideal councilmember.
3. It is imperative that we work with the citizens of Port Orchard, business owners, and developers as we move toward the future. By working with all groups, we passed code changes to increase the development and building of accessory dwelling units (ADU) and congregate living to expand affordable housing in our city. Working with developers, we are building the infrastructure to ensure current residents don’t bear the burden of these improvements. Along with the planning of a community center, road improvements and zoning changes, we are already seeing an interest in the revitalization of downtown.
Our four guiding principles that we use when we take action impacting our citizens and city are:
• Are we raising the bar?
• Are we honoring the past, but not living in the past?
• Are we building connections with outside partners?
• Is the decision-making process positively impacting diversity, equity and inclusion?
Council Position 3
1. Due to record development in and around us, our road network is increasingly stressed. To assist, we have a traffic improvements capital budget, supplemented by solicited federal and state competitive grants. The city also has a traffic impact fee program requiring developers to pay for infrastructure impacts.
Affordable housing initiatives have passed state laws that require city implementation. Prior to that, we adopted code to help — congregate living, development incentives — but will need to consider current barriers to affordable housing. Homelessness initiatives are also being made into state law, again requiring us to adopt new code. There are models to address homelessness, and the council will need to discuss potential solutions and assistance available.
Finally, the downtown will see redevelopment, with planning or concepts underway, and when realized, will rejuvenate the area and create a stronger focal point. The city needs to keep its momentum.
2. For nearly 30 years, I have been involved in land-use planning, and have a degree in planning, public policy and management. I have led both long-range planning as well as current planning teams. Often the issues that bring the most public testimony are land-use related, and I believe I have helped both staff and citizens with development issues the city has faced.
My current employment has also provided me with a background on affordable housing issues as well as homelessness issues, and I am well-positioned to assist in those discussions. I also have a strong willingness to listen and respond to local concerns, comments or questions. I pride myself on my quick response to citizens who reach out to me. I believe that the city should always seek to continually improve and realize efficiencies in all aspects of its customer service and public meetings.
3. Our challenge is “liveability” while growing. The council regularly considers this issue, and demonstrates this with neighborhood planning in areas of the city to ensure identity is supported and is sustainable.
Port Orchard’s size is preferred, and we can incentivize like-minded development by discussing barriers, such as zoning changes for artisanal businesses and live-work residences. However, growth brings opportunity — for example, more variety of local services and re-use of vacant buildings. These discussions involve interest groups — the city, businesses and the state.
The city can address barriers, such as by auditing code to see the obstacles, and it is the city’s role to be responsive to public needs so they can be successful. The city must support, but not control, private commerce. One of the guiding principles the council uses is: “Are we honoring the past, but not living in the past?” We must publicly address this question when we consider business initiatives.
1. As we head in to 2022, I want to preserve our small businesses. I want to be there for them, especially as we are still facing COVID restrictions. I also believe our police are challenged because of the new state laws passed in May 2021. I believe it is important as a community to be working together with the our law enforcement. Port Orchard’s infrastructure is an ongoing issue. I want to make sure that we are always being fiscally responsible and not getting ahead of ourselves. Our city is growing, however. We need responsible and thoughtful growth along with checks and balances. Our homeless population is also an issue. I want to work with the Port of Bremerton’s commissioners, the police, the City Council and other groups to help with the challenge we face.
2. My best qualities include a focus on transparency, along with providing deeper communication channels with the community and City Council. I want people to be acknowledged and know that their voices are being heard. I will achieve this by listening to our community and building trust. I will be a big advocate for our small businesses. I also am a doer and want to deal directly with the root cause of problems, not just put band-aids on them.
3. I am for commercial development and I want all businesses to be working together and provide fairness to each property owner and business. This will be for the good of Port Orchard. Port Orchard is a small town and a unique one. I hope that we never lose sight of this and that our quality of life will always be in the forefront as we grow together.
Council Position 6
1. The top needs are maintaining the roads and utilities (sewer and water). As Port Orchard becomes an increasingly popular place to live, I believe the city needs to make sure that development fees are fair and adequate to cover the impacts to our schools, parks, roads and utilities.
With recent changes to zoning and development standards, I believe the city encourages housing styles that will appeal to people of various ages and income levels. With new programs such as the Parks, Recreation & Open Space Plan currently in development, this will help make the city an attractive place to live.
2. I served as a planning commission member before being elected to the Port Orchard City Council in 2005. I have also organized my neighborhood block watch and chaired the Bremerton Ferry Advisory committee. I have heard from commuters, neighbors and residents, and this helps develop a sense of what the greater population is interested in.
3. Similar to the first question’s answer, I believe that development fees need to be able to cover their impacts. The council has also provided mixed-use zones, which can help blend retail stores and residences.
Kaylan O’Connor did not respond to requests from the Independent. The Kitsap County Official Voters’ Pamphlet has a statement from the candidate on page 16.
1. Development continues at a rate we have not seen before and looks to continue into the foreseeable future. This coming year will be challenging for the city to provide the staffing and infrastructure to support our citizen and small business needs, as well as timely developmental response as we emerge from this pandemic. Hiring and training employees so they can be productive in their new positions requires time and supervision. The need for affordable housing will require more homes for our growing community. Our police force is currently understaffed, which could create future patrolling issues and slow response to the needs of our citizens. I support the efforts of our police chief to make certain that we fill this need with quality law enforcement professionals. We owe it to our community to provide competent and trusted police officers and staff during this challenging time.
2. Operating a successful small business requires many of the qualities I believe are needed to be an effective council member. I am confident that I possess these critical skills and experience. Navigating the recession of 2007-2011 was very challenging and stressful, but it helped to make me the businessperson I am today. I bring the desire and ability to look at all situations from multiple angles, listen, question, probe for answers and make the right decision, regardless of how difficult the decision may be. I have served on and currently sit on several community organization boards and understand the importance of teamwork and negotiation when working to determine a collaborative outcome. My experience and involvement in the community, as well as being a husband and the proud father of two SK graduates, provides me with the perspective to understand the challenges of my neighbors, small business colleagues and fellow citizens.
3. The number of permits on file, pending and approved, is already at an all-time high, so I’m not certain the city needs to help with encouragement at this point. Growth is happening and I believe the city has done a great job of getting out in front of it. The recent updates to our developmental codes and regulations are a great start toward maintaining the type of development and lifestyle our citizens will continue to enjoy. Our town historically has had a vibrant downtown, with many small businesses and service professionals. I believe we’re building on that tradition, encouraging more downtown businesses and residents along our waterfront and shoreline vistas, which are truly the most attractive in all our region. It’s time for us to join together to support the reinvigoration of our wonderful community that honors the past while creating a new standard for livability and quality of life.
1. Infrastructure. We are expanding and many are expected to move into the city in the near future. However, our infrastructure is not able to handle the influx. Currently, the City Council would rather focus on vanity projects like the bike path to Annapolis that will destroy homes and small businesses, as well as the community events center project. This money could be better spent improving the roads such as the Bethel and Sedgwick corridors. I am all for development and growth, but it must be responsible development and growth. Our infrastructure can’t handle the loads the city places on it now. How can we expect it to do so in the future without investment?
2. I spent 20 years serving this nation in the armed forces. I will bring a driven and inquisitive nature. I am fiercely independent and will be a voice for the people on the council, not just another “yes man” for the mayor and the developers whose pocket the current council is in.
3. Step one is to revitalize the downtown area. We need to maintain the character of the buildings but bring them up to code and make them a destination on the Sound. Step two is investment in infrastructure, especially in the Bethel and Sedgwick corridors. We also need to stop the county from annexing 300 acres near the courthouse for a government campus. This would destroy small businesses downtown and the houses in the area. While our waterfront is very walkable, we are the only city with a car dealership and carwash on the water. Could this area be better utilized?