Quitslund named Citizen of the Year

Garnie Quitslund - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Garnie Quitslund
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Garnie Quitslund isn’t opposed to efforts aimed at improving the island as a place to live.

But he wants the opportunities to be made available to everyone, and not rationed only to those in the upper-income brackets.

“People who work in a community should be able to share and participate in it,” Quitslund said.

For the past dozen years, Quitslund has been dedicated to the cause of affordable housing. For those efforts, he has been named the Bainbridge Island Kiwanis Club’s Citizen of the Year for 2002.

“He has been a consistent and forceful advocate for members of our community whose housing options are limited and whose voices are otherwise lost,” retired realtor Ed Kushner wrote in support of Quitslund.

Quitslund’s volunteer efforts began in 1990, when he became involved in the home-rule committee.

“The opportunity for self-governing offered a means for the community to accomplish things for itself on issues like affordable housing,” he said.

It has been an uphill battle, with the ever-rising costs of land frustrating a number of experiments, like the transfer of development rights program to protect open space, and the present requirement that builders include a certain percentage of “affordable” homes.

What has been more successful, Quitslund says, is a number of other programs that, in some fashion, provide direct housing subsidies.

Through the Housing Resources Board, he oversaw the financing and construction of the VillageHome project on Ericksen Avenue, a subsidized, low-income apartment complex, and has been involved in the HRB’s pending WestHome project on Knechtel Way.

At the request of former mayor Dwight Sutton, Quitslund headed up a task force on affordable housing. Those efforts culminated in the creation of a Housing Trust Fund, which receives city funds, private contributions and the money developers spend to buy greater densities for certain projects.

Earlier this year, the trust fund provided a substantial portion of the money that Habitat for Humanity used to buy three lots for self-help home-building on Bainbridge.

Quitslund has also been active in the environmental arena. He was president of the South Bainbridge Community Association in the late 1990s, and helped raise funds to buy the Blakely Harbor Park. And he helped establish the Trust for Working Landscapes to preserve farmland and open space.

More recently, Quitslund was one of the driving forces in remodeling the former office and apartment on West Winslow Way into the Marge Williams Center, the home of five community non-profit organizations.

“He contributed countless hours of physical labor – in the cold and dark of winter – to successfully complete the remodel-upgrade,” said Greg Geehan, co-ordinator of the Citizen of the Year program for the Kiwanis Club, in a news release.

The only permanent solution to the affordability problem, Quitslund said, is an increase in public awareness about the issue.

“The schools have done a good job in education about the environment and about diversity,” he said, “and we need the same kind of education about the importance of affordability.

“It takes a generation to change our way of thinking.”

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