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No time to catch her breath

After a tough campaign to be elected mayor of Bainbridge Island, Darlene Kordonowy thought she would take a little time off to catch her breath.

But once she was elected, she realized that she needed to spend all the time she had learning how to do the job.

“I kept thinking that there must be some sort of how-to book – ‘Being Mayor For Dummies’ or something,” she said. “Instead, I’ve spent the last two months going to meetings and talking to people.”

And it has paid off, she said.

“I know so much more now. If I had started on Jan. 2 with the information I had on Nov. 7, when I was elected, I would have been a very uneasy mayor.”

As it is, Kordonowy says she’s ready to go. By law, she became mayor at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. But barring an emergency, she planned to take New Year’s Day off, then begin moving into her new office in city hall this morning.

Her principal role, she says, is as chief executive of a city that employs more than 130 people.

“Ultimately, they all work for the mayor,” she says.

In keeping with that function, she intends to devote her initial efforts to team-building.

“I want to build a management team that functions cohesively, that supports each other,” she said. “I think such a team may have existed in the past, but I want to make it much more obvious.”

She will also grapple with the allocation of roles and resources among herself, the city council and the staff.

“The newly elected city council members are enthusiastic, coming in with what they see as a message for change,” Kordonowy said. “They think they will have the resources to make that happen, to do good research and get good information on issues they believe to be important.

“But it can be very hard to find the staff to do that.”

The challenge, she said, will be to allocate the same pool of resources of people and time to respond to the council’s needs for information and assistance as well as her own needs and those of the citizens.

Another issue to be tackled early on is how to set the agendas for the twice-monthly city council meetings.

Initially, Kordonowy said she was going to take back the agenda-setting function, which is currently handled by the city council’s operations committee in cooperation with the mayor.

When some of the incoming council raised questions about that, Kordonowy said, they looked for legal guidance, only to learn that both city ordinances and state law are conspicuously silent on the agenda-setting question.

However that is resolved – Kordonowy believes some form of collaboration is the most likely outcome – she vowed that council meetings would be shorter, aiming for a 10 p.m. finish instead of the tendency to run to midnight or later.

One policy matter that she think deserves immediate attention is downtown parking. She calls for both a short-range and long-range plan, and anticipates the long-range plan will include a downtown parking garage.

Another “this year” issue is revision of the island’s Comprehensive Plan, of which Kordonowy was one of the principal architects. The five-year review required by state law is due in September.

Coincidentally, the plan will also have to be reviewed in light of new 20-year population projections to be released next year.

“Our problem is not that we don’t have enough land to accommodate our projected population growth,” she said. “We have plenty of land. Our challenge is to maintain the kind of community we want. We are going to have to take a hard look at what infrastructure we need and how we are going to pay for it.”

Finally, she said, she wants to reach out more to the business community, particularly the Winslow Way merchants.

“The Winslow Way merchants are so important because they are the key to the whole community’s future,” she said. “Their success or failure determines the way the community looks and operates.”

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