The following is the text of the statement Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer read from in announcing his resignation Monday night:
Tonight I am announcing my resignation at the end of February or early March of this year. By that time I will have been in office almost a full term and have worked through four budgets. I didn’t seek office to be a politician or to have a political career. I came out of retirement primarily to help the County solve its financial problems. Over the last four budgets, we’ve lived within our means, cut costs every year and maintained the services most important to the public. But that can’t continue forever. Unfortunately, I now believe that one effect of the recession is that a serious discussion with voters about County services and funding is some years away.
In December I announced that I would not run for re-election at the end of this term. My wife Ann and I are at a point in our lives where we must choose between the all-consuming demands of public service and the equally consuming demands and opportunities of our private lives and our family
Since taking office in 2007, two members of our family have contracted cancer. One lost his battle with the disease just a year ago. Thankfully, the other was cured. But these two awful experiences have taught Ann and me that we can’t take a single day for granted. The opportunities we pass up – and there have been many these last few years – may never come again. Our parents are aging, our five grandchildren are growing like weeds and we need to be in their lives. Ann and I have taken on the challenge of being Commissioner as a team. She has been a terrific confidant and supporter. I want to thank her and our Family for their support and sacrifices while I have been in office.
There are many folks capable of being County Commissioner. But no one else can fill my roles as Son, Brother, Husband, Dad, Uncle and Grandfather. After almost four years’ in office, it is clear I can’t fill those personal roles and be County Commissioner at the same time. During my career in local government, I often placed the interests of my family and myself behind the demands of public service. The time has come to put family and friends first.
Few people know just how demanding this position really is. Commissioners serve as the Board of Directors of a $300 million plus public corporation. Each Commissioner represents about 80,000 people in their own District. All County voters – representing 240,000 residents – vote for each Commissioner in the general election. No other elected officials in Kitsap County – even legislators – are responsible to as many voters and residents.
Each Commissioner also sits on 6-10 other Boards. Many of them provide critical services like transit, public health, housing programs, emergency management and 911 emergency response. Each of these Boards could consume almost full time to do them justice.
As a result our days are full of meetings. Evenings and weekends are full of meetings and preparing for the next day’s or the next week’s meetings or studying issues. We each can get 50 plus emails a day on top of phone calls. In truth, being Commissioner is not a job – it is a lifestyle which I believe must be all consuming to do it justice.
If I thought that the big challenges ahead could be completed in the next two years, I would gladly remain. But I think that the truly significant challenges of the budget, the North Kitsap Legacy Partnership, reshaping the future of Kitsap Transit and others will take several years to accomplish. Actions in the next two years will lay the groundwork for later successes. I think the public will be best served if the same person works on these issues for the next several years.
I am proud of the things that we have accomplished during my tenure. And by “We” I mean County staff, the other Commissioners and me. No County Commissioner achieves the big things by themselves. My most significant personal achievement was working as Chair of the Kitsap Housing Authority in 2009 to save it from destruction after years of bad Board and management decisions threatened more than 1,000 housing units for low income, elderly and dependent residents. Kitsap Housing is now well on the road to recovery but it took most of a year of devoting 2-3 days per week on Housing Authority business – on top of normal County business – to help guide the agency to recovery.
I am especially proud of our “Water as a Resource” Policy that I believe will change how we all treat water in the future.
The future look and feel of rural Kitsap County will be decided by the County Commissioners. I believe that we have protected the rural character of this County for at least a decade with the “Year of the Rural” policies we adopted just last month.
With WSU Extension, we’ve created one of the best – and growing! – Beach Watchers programs in the State.
The North Kitsap Legacy Partnership is a once in history – not once in a lifetime but literally a once in history – chance to preserve the natural character of North Kitsap forever! This is an opportunity to set aside over 6,000 acres of open space in permanent public ownership in order to protect and provide for wildlife habitat, forest ecosystem and outdoor recreation opportunities for all future generations. It will be difficult but it is worth fighting for. Surely future generations will measure us by how we embraced this challenging opportunity.
I’ve been fortunate to work with two special volunteers, Walter Briggs (the Navy’s forester) and Arno Bergstom (the County Extension forester), to draft a Forest Stewardship Program for all County forest lands, including most of our larger parks. This program could also be used to manage future North Kitsap Legacy forests. The Stewardship Program will protect wildlife, water resources, provide for public recreation and re-establish mature, native forests for all future generations of Kitsap residents. It will contribute immeasurably to our quality of life and encourage an eco-tourism economy for our County.
In My District we helped Kingston get a new park and are helping the community and the new Metropolitan Park District move forward with a new community center, library, Boys and Girls Club and senior housing. Kingston will soon get a new downtown Master Plan that will help that Community become one of the most vibrant and attractive areas in the County. In Hansville, we completed purchase of the Norwegian Point Park and have virtually assured that the Coast Guard will turn over the Point No Point lighthouse and grounds to the County to be enjoyed by future generations of County residents and visitors. In Suquamish we are making it safer for kids to walk to school.
I want to thank County employees for their intelligence, their skills, their commitment to public service and their love for living in this special place. I’ve been privileged to work with public employees all my career and I can truthfully say that I’ve never worked with a better group.
Two people deserve my special thanks and recognition. Deanna Erstad and Rebecca Pirtle have had the impossible task of keeping me on track and on task for the last couple of years. These two women have been hugely helpful to me and to the constituents and communities of my District. Nothing meaningful would have been accomplished without their tireless and cheerful efforts.
County Government is blessed to be served by able elected officials of both parties. I want to thank our County Administrator and my fellow Commissioners for being such great teammates and for their commitment to the citizens of this County. I have also appreciated all the Kitsap elected officials I have worked with. Whether they are legislators or represent cities, fire districts, port districts, school districts or the library district – to a person they have done their very best to make Kitsap County a better place.
I will forever be grateful to the voters and the Democratic Party for allowing me to have this experience. In 25 years as a local government professional I always had huge respect for those who have committed their time and brains and passion as elected officials to make their communities better. It was a pleasure and honor to serve them over the decades. It has now been a pleasure to serve with them over the past several years.
I want to thank the thousands of citizens who volunteer in government, who serve on Community Advisory Councils, non-profit organizations and informal groups in their neighborhoods. The best times as Commissioner have not been sitting in meetings; they have been learning from these volunteers who do so much every day to enrich our County. They – along with the breath-taking scenery and environment – are the real treasures of Kitsap County.
I’ve timed my departure for around the end of February or early March in order to complete some tasks for Kingston, the North Kitsap Legacy Partnership and the Forestry Stewardship Program. It will also provide time for the Democratic Party and the other two Commissioners to select my replacement. There is never a good time to leave. There will always be incomplete projects. There will always be people and causes to protect. But I am clear that this is the right time for Ann and me to chart a new course in our lives. I hope you will understand.
People often bemoan the loss of civility in our public conversations. Indeed, I’ve encountered my share of folks who can’t resist the temptation to demonize elected officials and staff rather than dealing with the issues at hand. Folks say to me, “It must be tough having people criticize you all the time.” The constant surprise for me has been the number of folks who just come up and say “Thank you for your service.” “Thanks for all that you do and the sacrifices you make to do this job.” All I can say in return is “Thanks for giving me this opportunity to serve Kitsap County.”