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Alvarado, Stephenson vie for treasurer post

The office of Kitsap County Treasurer will stay in Democratic hands no matter who is elected to replace Sharon Shrader – there isn’t a Republican on the ballot, so the office will be decided in the Sept. 17 primary.

Both candidates – former Poulsbo city accounting manager Paulette Alvarado and Barbara Stephenson, executive director of the United Way of Kistap County – claim accounting and finance experience, in addition to ringing endorsements from other elected officials and private citizens.

While Alvarado’s focus has been in the government sector, Stephenson’s experience centers more on the private and quasi-public sectors.

“The voters truly have a choice to make,” Stephenson said. “They have an opportunity to look at the differences between the two candidates and make a decision. We are very different.”

Alvarado agrees. She points to her 25-year history with the city of Poulsbo, calling herself a hands-on player, a manager who can take on any role in the office when called upon to do so and with a deep understanding of how government banking works. She is a certified Municipal Finance Administrator.

“The citizens deserve a qualified, experienced government finance officer,” Alvarado said. “I am qualified for the position.”

Stephenson points to her 11 years with the United Way and her 14 years in the banking industry.

“The reality, coming from the private sector, is that you have to manage to the bottom line,” she said. “That’s truly how it is.”

Whoever is elected will have a challenge ahead of her. Kitsap County commissioners earlier this summer asked all department heads to shave their budgets by 10 percent next year and by an additional 5 percent in 2004 – a move that could mean layoffs.

The treasurer’s office has a staff of 14, including the treasurer.

As the executive director of the United Way of Kitsap, Stephenson said she hasn’t increased the staff level once in her 11 years.

“You look at the budget each year and figure out the most economical way to get the job done,” Stephenson said.

Alvarado points again to her government experience, as accounting manager for the city of Poulsbo.

“I was a working manager,” Alvarado said. “I was able to step in and do any of the jobs I supervised. The county treasurer’s office needs someone who can step in at any time. You don’t know what you’re going to be faced with, with diminishing resources, but citizens deserve good services.”

Alvarado has never before sought a public office, but opted to pursue the treasurer’s position after retiring from her Poulsbo post in July. She was encouraged to run by Washington State Treasurer Michael Murphy.

She also boasts the endorsements of retiring Kitsap treasurer Sharon Shrader; Port Orchard Treasurer Kristene Tompkins; Poulsbo Finance Director Donna Bjorkman among others.

Stephenson was one of 21 members elected to the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders, which crafted a new charter for Kitsap County.

The charter, which would have dramatically reorganized county government, was defeated by voters in February.

It was from this overall experience, Stephenson said, that she learned the nuts and bolts of government practice and, during that time, learned that Shrader intended to retire.

“It was a natural progression,” Stephenson said. “I have been taking care of other people’s money for 25 years.”

Stephenson is endorsed by Poulsbo Mayor Donna Jean Bruce; former Poulsbo Mayor Mitch Mitchusson; county Assessor Jim Avery and prosecutor Russ Hauge; and Billie Eder, former county treasurer and commissioner.

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