Knobloch to end his 10-year council run

Bill Knobloch realizes that some people think he’s stayed way too long – 10 years – at the public trough, while others appreciate his directness and want him to seek another term with the City Council.

Regardless, with the filing deadline for his Central Ward seat a month away, he made it official this week: No more Bill Knobloch to kick around after Dec. 31.

Actually, as the longest tenured council member in the City of Bainbridge Island’s brief history, he admits to being nostalgic about stepping down at a time when things are just getting interesting.

It’s a time when his persistent crusade for a more financially accountable COBI has become more than just an isolated rant made before a few citizens so bored that they went to City Hall with the hope of finding some intellectual stimulus on a summer evening.

Still, the retired US Airways pilot realizes the city will do just fine without him. Plus, he’s got some grandkids to spoil and his wife, Liz, is ready to retire.

As he put it this past week: “Ten years is a long time and I’m going to cut the umbilical cord.”

Officially, he wrote: “After spending much time weighing my representation of the Central Ward, Position 4, I have decided that I will not file this spring for a fourth term. My reasons have everything to do with needing more free time with my wife and family, including five children and 15 grandchildren who have been very patient as I served our island for the last 10 years.”

There’s no doubt that Knobloch served islanders during a tempestuous political environment, including a few worth mentioning: city government grew annually and reached a peak number of 152.02 full-time equivalent employees in 2007; Winslow Way’s contentious slide from being a $22 million project down to the $5.6 million fix now under way; a real estate-fueled economy that began its precipitous fall during the first year of his third term; the downsizing and reorganization of city staff to 111 FTE employees; overwhelming voter approval of a new council-manager form of government; and now, a lack of funding for failing road and utility infrastructures.

“When I first came in the administration seemed to think that the real estate boom and population growth would go on forever,” he said. “That thinking has put us where we are today. I’ve thought all along our first responsibility is taking care of our infrastructure, but to do it as frugally as possible. That wasn’t always the most popular stance in our community.”

Knobloch said enemies come with being an elected official and it has never bothered him when others disagreed with his approach to city government.

“My goal has always been to ensure that the city controls its finances by balancing revenue with the cost of government,” he said. “That’s been a struggle and we’re still not in balance, but we’re getting there.”

His most gratifying moments, he said, have often been helping people “navigate through our government, helping with problems such as neighborhood code enforcement, public safety and land use issues.”

One of his regrets is “not being able to bring a dynamic plan to the management of Eagle Harbor, which lacks the amenities needed to give us an economic boost and a plan to make better use of the harbor.”

What will he miss?

“We will continue to live here,” he said, “but I’ll miss the experience of being involved with the community in a way that is positive and helpful. I’ve made a lot of new friends here, and also at the county and state level. That’s probably the best part.”

He’ll likely be missed most by Kim Brackett, who has been his closest ally since she was elected to the council in 2008.

“Bill’s retirement is a true loss for Bainbridge Island citizens,” she wrote in an email. “He is always the advocate for those who live here, and that advocacy is bolstered by a detailed knowledge and understanding of the issues facing the island.”

John Green, an announced candidate who also lives in the Central Ward, said he will seek Knobloch’s vacant seat.

Councilor Barry Peters, elected in 2008 as an unopposed at-large candidate, lives in the Central Ward and said that he is still undecided but was leaning toward seeking re-election to the at-large position.

Filing will be held during the week of June 6-10.

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